D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has decided to back Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s plan to hire additional city police officers, many of whom could be dispatched to city nightlife corridors.
In an interview Thursday, Mendelson (D) said he agreed to drop his earlier reluctance to the plan after meeting last week with Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.
Under the proposal, the city will spend about $2.8 million in surplus funds to hire about 90 officers over a three-month period, Mendelson said. Combined with attrition, the new hires will eventually add about 40 to 50 officers to the force.
“People need to understand this is not police officers we who will be out on the streets tomorrow,” Mendelson said. “This is a continuous recruitment of 30 new officers a month, which is greater than attrition, and grows the force while meeting the chief’s concerns about some neighborhoods where we see a lot more nightlife and business activity.”
Last month, after the District experienced several high-profile robberies and beatings, Gray (D) submitted a plan to hire the new officers. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the new chairman of the Public Safety Committee, supported the mayor, but Mendelson convinced a majority of his colleagues to block the move.
At the time, Mendelson said the department should first explore whether the officers were needed and if the department was doing enough to move officers out of administrative jobs.
But at a town hall meeting with Wells on Capitol Hill on Wednesday night, Mendelson said he now supports the plan.
Mendelson said Lanier made a convincing argument that additional officers are needed in areas that are attracting growing numbers of partygoers, such as U Street in Northwest and H Street in Northeast.
“I think we still need to look at what precise number the chief needs,” Mendelson said. “But the chief has laid out areas like Chinatown where, sometimes, she’s gotten behind the curve with some criminal activity in emerging commercial areas, and she wants to be ahead of the curve and have more officers, so criminals will not be attracted there.”
Mendelson said he will work with Gray and Wells to bring the matter up for a vote in the coming weeks.