Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III says that the officer shortage his agency is experiencing adversely affects the service D.C. residents receive.
Contee made the assertion at the budget oversight hearing of the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. He said the department is at its lowest levels in 20 years, thereby impacting when an officer can reach residents to assist them.
Contee said in 2021, the response time for priority 1 calls forwarded by the 911 center to police increased by 90 seconds.
“Ninety seconds may not seem like a long time if you were watching a hearing, but if you’re the victim of a violent crime waiting for police to arrive, that can seem like an eternity,” Contee said, WTOP reported Wednesday. “And, if you have committed a violent crime, 90 additional seconds to get away probably sounds pretty good.”
Contee said Mayor Muriel Bowser’s fiscal year 2022-2023 budget calls for $30 million to recruit and retain police officers with the eventual goal of increasing the force to 4,000 officers. He said 18 months ago, the department has experienced a net loss of 280 officers and since the retirement bubble that began in 2014, 450 officers have moved on.
The chief said he would like to add 36 new officers by the end of September 2023 and added that could be done if the council approved Bowser’s levels of funding.
“With the commitment to fund ongoing retention and recruitment strategies, we project that we would reach 3,800 officers in 2028 and 4,000 officers in 2031,” Contee said, WTOP reported.