DC Council member proposing move to retain experienced DC police officers

WASHINGTON — To combat violence in the city, D.C. Council member Vincent Gray is proposing an incentive to keep experienced officers from retiring. This week, the council will consider emergency legislation to fund it.

It’s a strategy to mitigate an ongoing problem in D.C., police officers retiring in their 40s and 50s and going elsewhere.

“We have an attractive pension program and at the end of 25 years, they’re eligible for a nice retirement pension,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Gray is introducing legislation Tuesday to reward experienced officers with a bonus and one year’s salary if they sign on for another five years past their retirement eligibility.

“We’re not talking about people who are way past the point where they’d be a part of a patrol effort. These are people who are really at the prime of their career, who are choosing to go on to other jobs or on to another police force just to do something different,” Gray said.

Long referred to as the D.C. police retirement bubble, Mendelson said D.C. cannot recruit and train officers as fast as they are losing them, due to a majority of the now high-ranking officers hired in the 1980s.

Former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said once the department falls below 3,800 officers, we’ll be in trouble, Gray recalled.

“We’re down to somewhere north of 3,700 [officers], which means we’re close to 100 below where chief said we should be. Frankly I’m not sure the number isn’t lower than 3,730,” Gray said.

A D.C. police spokesman wrote in an emailed response to WTOP that their sworn member numbers are at 3,762.

Gray said the reason for classifying the legislation as “emergency” is to act quickly on the funding available.

“We have emergent needs right now, and we have a financial opportunity to get this through because this would be nonrecurring revenue, meaning it doesn’t come back every year. So this is an opportunity to do something we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do,” he said.

The Force of 4200 — Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Emergency Act of 2017 is being co-sponsored by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh and supported by Council members Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie and Trayon White.

Gray needs nine votes to pass the emergency legislation, which Mayor Muriel Bowser has indicated she will not implement. However Gray said he also has introduced it as a permanent bill.

“If the council doesn’t approve the legislation, the issue is not going away, and the council will continue to deal with it,” Mendelson said of the emergency legislation.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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