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One day after the results of a police-union poll showed that almost 98 percent of voting officers have “no confidence” in Chief Cathy Lanier, Mayor Muriel Bowser appeared to dig in on her support of the police chief, citing the latter’s leadership and 25 years of experience on the force.
At a press conference Tuesday following a presentation about her dramatic expansion of services for homeless families in the District, the mayor said Lanier “knows this city like few others do.”
“This is what I know: I support the beat officer that walks on my street, the lieutenant, the commands, my [police-service area], and the chief of police,” Bowser said. “And that’s how Washingtonians feel, too.”
Responding to a question about this past weekend’s All Hands on Deck initiative, for which the MPD deployed every available officer and recruit as an anti-crime strategy that Lanier launched in 2007—somewhat controversially—the mayor said she’s “never heard a community say they wouldn’t want to see police walking the beat.” Bowser added that the initiative decreased crime. According to the MPD, the District saw 39 percent less violent crime during AHOD as compared with the same weekend last year; likewise, officers recovered 34 illegal guns, up from 7 in 2014.
Critics of the program have argued that AHOD creates “a vacuum of staffing” during the middle of the week, and that it’s more a publicity stunt than an effective means of combating crime. This weekend, D.C. recorded several shootings, including two that drove the homicide count up to its 2014 tally of 105: a 42 percent jump over this time last year. AHOD will next occur in October.
“The chief has said, and I couldn’t agree more, all of us who are in public service, we sign up for a job, and sometimes circumstances change that makes all of our schedules have to change,” Bowser said. “We want to have that type of understanding with the police and the police union.”
Beyond AHOD, the mayor added that the MPD is experiencing a retirement bubble that is especially acute because officers hired around a quarter-century ago are starting to retire in large numbers. She pointed to a $2.5 million “package of programs” in a budget beginning Oct. 1 that could help the District retain police; it contains tuition assistance and similar incentives. Bowser said part of her Safer, Stronger D.C. campaign entails “civilianizing” certain administrative positions so that the police department can put officers back on the streets; officer-salaries will remain “competitive.”
Asked whether she’s listening to the needs of rank-and-file MPD personnel, Bowser said she’s “ever accessible” to the D.C. police union, and that she’s willing to hear from the city’s employees.
“I would never say any manager couldn’t listen more,” Bowser said. “Listening’s good. All managers, including myself, can listen more. And we want to hear from our employees.”
“But this is what I say to our officers, including the [Fraternal Order of Police],” she concluded. “The District of Columbia supports its police. Period.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery