D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., ending his silence on Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon's proposal to cut $13.5 million from his department budget, said yesterday he is concerned that some of the mayor's moves could cripple the force.
Fulwood's remarks came at a hearing on public safety that was convened by D.C. Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), who again criticized Dixon's plans, saying they would devastate the police department.
Although he avoided criticizing the mayor, Fulwood suggested that some of Dixon's proposals to freeze police hiring, which she announced last week, could be harmful because nearly 1,300 officers will be eligible to retire by year's end.
Fulwood said he feared that many of those officers would choose to retire because there apparently will be no chance to get department-wide pay raises or the special bonuses given to veteran officers who choose to remain on duty.
"There is an escalation" of officers retiring, Fulwood said. "The thing we have been discussing is how to stretch this out as long as possible."
As part of a $130 million package of spending cuts, Dixon has proposed canceling plans to hire 200 officers this year, and she has said that she may shrink the size of the force by not filling positions vacated by officers who retire. Dixon also has said the city's budget crisis is forcing her to shelve all pay raises and bonuses.
Last week, Dixon administration officials said that the cuts could whittle the police force by 300 to 400 officers. That would bring the number of officers in the city down to about 4,600, which is more than the city had this time last year, but many fewer than the 5,050 positions that Congress authorized for this year.
Fulwood did not mention the possible loss of 200 new officers, but focused on the retiring officers whose jobs mught not be filled. Dixon aides have said Fulwood suggested scrapping the 200 officers to accommodate the mayor.
Fulwood also noted that 51 D.C. police officers have been summoned to duty with U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf, and that an additional 150 officers are eligible to be activated.