DC police dept. uses DOJ funding to hire 25 officers

A multimillion-dollar investment from the Department of Justice will be used by D.C. police to hire 25 additional officers.

According to the Office of Mayor Muriel Bowser, the $3,125,000 funding D.C. police received through the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring program will go toward the District’s hiring effort for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2022.

Following the District’s 10% increase in homicides year-over-year, finding new ways to tackle D.C. police’s staffing challenges has become a focus for the city.

“We are honored to receive this grant from the Department of Justice, which will allow us to hire more officers to ensure the safety of our residents,” Chief of Police Robert Contee said in a news release. “[D.C. police are] an essential element of making our city safer, and the investments in our force are necessary to combat gun violence.”

Mayor Bowser’s office pointed to both a D.C. Council imposed hiring freeze in 2020 and attrition on the force as to why only 3,550 officers are currently serving the District, the city’s lowest in more than two decades.

Attempts to direct more funding to hire police officers haven’t been embraced by the Council, according to Bowser’s office.

Bowser sent an $11 million emergency appropriation request to the Council over the summer so D.C. police could hire 20 additional officers in FY21 (which ended Sept. 30) and could hire an additional 150 officers for FY22 (which started Oct. 1), according to her office.

Instead, her office said that the Council only funded $5 million to add half the number of officers Bowser called for in her plan.

The funding challenges caused Bowser to seek out support from alternative resources, such as the DOJ grant award through its COPS hiring program.

“I committed to throwing every resource necessary at reducing violent crime,” Bowser said. “The safety of all District residents remains my number one priority and that means making sure [D.C. police] has the staff and talent it needs to protect our communities.”

Staffing challenges have also forced D.C. police to look toward local school systems to attract new recruits.

Last month, Bowser and Contee, the chief of police, relaunched the High School Cadet Program, which provides training, mentoring and up-close experience for high school students around the D.C. area interested in becoming police officers.

The program, previously cut because of budget constraints, also pays teens $17 an hour for part-time work for the District’s police department.

WTOP’s Shayna Estulin contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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