D.C. Council denies mayor funding for cop hires

Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Vincent Gray

The D.C. Council spurned Mayor Vincent Gray on Tuesday and voted down a pair of plans that would have provided funding to hire 100 new police officers, prompting a wave of criticism from Gray and the city's police union.

"Violent crime is up citywide, and the council is not only doing nothing, they are actively thwarting efforts to make the city safer," union leader Kristopher Baumann said. "How can we as a city not do better than these clowns?"

A mayoral spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said Gray was disappointed.

"Apparently, the council doesn't believe the District needs more police officers," Ribeiro said. "I think most District residents would disagree."

Lawmakers had two avenues to bulk up the city's police force, which stands at approximately 3,800 sworn officers. But council members ultimately rejected both proposals.

In one instance, Gray was attempting to use $1.7 million in budget savings to pay for 48 officers.

But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Gray was trying to rush his proposal through the process and said lawmakers would likely support the hiring of new officers after having more time to review the department's needs.

"Nobody should view what's on the agenda today as being 'yes' or 'no' that there should be more officers," Mendelson said. "Rather, we need to have a little more contemplation."

More than once, Mendelson referred to Tuesday's vote as an effort to "buy time," and he predicted an additional month of delay wouldn't negatively affect hiring patterns.

In a letter to Mendelson, Lanier said the additional officers are necessary as the District's population climbs.

"The expanding demands on police services require more sworn members who can patrol the rapidly growing areas of the city," Lanier wrote. "The benefits are invaluable and the long-term cost of crime is not one we can afford to bear."

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells was the only legislator to support Gray's proposal, though several other lawmakers said they want the council to act quickly in 2013 to hire more officers.

Gray also attempted to use money generated from traffic camera tickets to fund another 52 positions. Lawmakers unanimously rejected that proposal, though, and instead voted to support their own plan for the future of the traffic camera network.

Mendelson slammed the mayor for trying to tie ticket revenues to the police force's size.

"I do see a problem with tying the number of officers to the volume of speeding tickets," Mendelson said. "Photo enforcement should be about making our roads safe, not about hiring more officers."

View article comments Leave a comment