WASHINGTON — While murders and violent crime have dropped steadily in recent years, D.C. Police face a different kind of public safety problem: a retirement bubble.
Between 1989-1990, almost 1,500 officers joined the force. A quarter-century later, many of those recruits are preparing to hand in the badge and retire.
“As a result, the District [Police] Department is now in a position where more officers will be leaving each year than we can responsibly hire while maintaining the hiring standards,” Chief Cathy Lanier told a council committee this week.
That imbalance threatens to significantly shrink the overall size of the force, even as the District adds nearly 1,000 new residents per month.
“We are failing right now because we cannot maintain our staffing numbers,” says Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. Police Union. “Twenty-five years later, you can predict when the majority of those folks will be leaving. What did we do? Absolutely nothing.”
For years, Lanier has also sounded the alarm about the oncoming retirement bubble.
Given that a hiring spree is untenable, Lanier posited some alternatives. Chief among them: Enlisting the help of outsiders.
“Hiring more civilians is absolutely necessary to address this shortage,” she says. “In MPD and other agencies, civilians can do many of the jobs that officers right now are doing.”
Also, Lanier told the committee technology helps blunt the impact of understaffing: Body cameras, for example, dramatically cut citizen complaints against officers, which require personnel to conduct internal investigations.