The Washington Post

Vincent Gray’s plan for more cops runs into D.C. Council objections

Chief Cathy L. Lanier says more cops are needed for a growing city. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Some D.C. Council members, led by Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), are at odds with a plan by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to hire 48 new city cops.

Gray earlier this month introduced a proposal to spend $1.7 million to hire the new officers, a notion he first put forward as part of a broader plan to adjust traffic fines and address road safety.

But Mendelson is now asking his colleagues to deny the request, arguing that there has not been enough discussion of the hiring proposal nor does the police department have the capacity to make more hires in the coming year.

In a memo to colleagues, Mendelson noted that the council has provided funding to keep the force at 3,900 officers — a level Chief Cathy L. Lanier has called sufficient in the past. He also noted that the council has pushed the department to “civilianize” more back-line jobs in order to keep more sworn officers on the street.

But Lanier, in a letter sent to the council Monday, argued that the new officers are necessary to meet the needs of a growing city:

The historical lessons we have learned from areas such as Chinatown and Columbia Heights suggest that several other areas of development will experience an upward trajectory in workload — both calls for service and crime. Capitol Riverfront and NOMA have both experienced incredible growth, yet continued plans suggest they are merely in the early to mid-stages of development. Several other areas — including the H Street corridor, U Street and 14th Street NW, CityCenterDC, DuPont Circle, Adams Morgan, and the St. Elizabeth’s campus, to name a few are undergoing substantial amounts of new or continued development. All of these areas will have a significant impact on police services. Our analysis has made it clear that due to the dense development, the areas will demand a different type of police deployment — more foot, bike, and Segway patrols, which are not able to cover as large of an area.

Gray, in a statement, called Mendelson’s position “ill-advised and short-sighted,” and some of his colleagues pushed back at a Tuesday breakfast meeting.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said, while he understood Mendelson’s misgivings, he has too often dealt with constituents who want additional officers in their neighborhoods. A vote against more cops, he said, is “not something I can defend.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.



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