The All Hands on Deck program, which wrapped up its fifth year of operations last month, is a source of public debate largely played out among law enforcement leaders. Considered a key component of Lanier’s crime-fighting strategy, it has been challenged in court by the police union and is unpopular with some officers.
The opinions of residents, however, are less frequently heard. In interviews, residents across the city expressed a range of opinions about its effectiveness.
“It emboldens the community to do what they were already doing — report crime, be vigilant and contribute to a safe atmosphere,” said Peele, a Congress Heights condominium owner and blogger
“I don’t believe that [All Hands on Deck] is all that effective in targeting criminals,” said Moulton, president of the Convention Center Community Association. “Even the most marginally intelligent criminal, when they see a police officer, will walk away.”
The department has had every available officer work back-to-back shifts on designated weekends since 2007. Lanier describes the program as proactive policing that deters crime during times when it has historically spiked.
That position has led to repeated clashes with Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Department, who characterizes it as a public-relations stunt. Some rank-and-file officers say that the temporary reassignments affect their regular investigations.
The matter has gone to court, with an arbitrator ruling that two 2009 All Hands deployments violated the police union contract and ordering the city to pay overtime expenses. That amount, which Lanier estimates is $300,000 to $400,00, is another point of contention.
Beyond the public debate is the perspective of residents, whose impressions of All Hands illustrate the range of expectations they have of law enforcement.
Some appreciate the opportunity to nurture relationships with police, while others wonder whether the occasional high-profile presence of officers truly deters criminals.
Originally from Spain, Esperenza Mendoza moved to Adams Morgan three months ago from Capitol Hill. Walking her son to school one morning, she stopped by her car in a reserved alley parking space and found a window smashed. “I did not have any valuables in the car, but they broke in anyway,” she posted in a community e-mail group.
In an interview, Mendoza said she’s uncertain whether All Hands makes a dent in crime in her neighborhood. “If it’s only going to be something for show, then it might not help,” she said. And in some cases, Mendoza said, the presence of officers has worried her.