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DC Police Union warns of 'catastrophe' as more officers turn in their badges

The union president blames the officer shortage on the police reform bill.

WASHINGTON — As D. C.’ s mayor and police chief focus on the newly announced summer crime initiative, the police union says an increasing number of officers are turning in their badges.

The union chairman, Greggory Pemberton, points to the D.C. Council's recently passed police reform bill as the reason many officers have left the force.

“What we're seeing a lot of is people who are actually just turning in their badge and gun and just walking away either from the Metropolitan Police Department or from law enforcement in general," Pemberton said. "And what we hear from those folks when we talk to them is that they just don't feel like they have the support from their elected leadership.”

Pemberton says since June 2020, MPD has lost 313 police officers to retirement or resignation and that the force has less than 3,300 officers now, which he calls unprecedented.

MPD contradicts that stat, saying there are currently more than 3,600 officers on the force.

"But the numbers are reduced, and it is a concern, " Chief Robert Contee said. "I can tell you we’re not at an all-time low in terms of morale. Our officers, we’re checking in with them, and making sure we’re good there.”

MPD shared the following data set Tuesday:

  • MPD has 3,623 sworn members as of today
  • As of April 27, 2021, 102 sworn members separated (67 resigned) and 76 members retired
  • In 2020, 153 sworn members separated (116 resigned) and 162 retired
  • In 2019, 157 members separated (103 resigned) and 176 retired

“Those are the people that are going to show up if you call 911. And those numbers are dwindling," Pemberton said. "And now the fact that … doesn't appear that there's going to be any hiring going on. I think we're really hurtling toward a catastrophic situation here.”

RELATED: Where does the conversation on police reform stand in DC?

Meanwhile, D.C. has seen a lot of violence recently. 

Homicides are up by 35% compared to the same time last year, even though overall crime is down 17%, according to police data shared May 4.

RELATED: DC's homicide rate already is outpacing 2020, which saw a 16-year-high

Pemberton says some of the provisions that have really taken a toll on officers are the requirement to release body camera footage within a few days as well as officers' names.

“We've seen them targeted, targeted with threats and death threats, we've seen their family their children's targeted," he said.

The head of the judiciary committee for the council, Councilmember Charles Allen shared the following statement in response:

“Police officers should not be able to negotiate their own discipline behind closed doors. The Council passed legislation recognizing that holding public employees accountable by taking discipline off the bargaining table, while preserving due process protections, strengthens trust in government. MPD’s unique scope of powers and wide-ranging jurisdiction in the District call for this important transparency reform.”

Losing officers is not a problem unique to D.C. 

The Fairfax Coalition of Police, Local 5000 said they are also facing a crew shortage.

“We're talking about, you know, the equivalent of a district station that is not here, coalition president Sean Corcoran said. "You know, I think that it's going to be a significant drain on the workforce.”

Corcoran said their biggest problem is a lack of resources and compensation increases for officers.

"We're not being really given the capability from the county to be able to meet those needs. You know, they just wrapped up the budget, I believe they voted on the budget earlier today," Corcoran said. "You know, this might be one of the most disappointing ones that I've that I've been involved in, because, you know, the, the need was so acute. And, and, you know, all we were really asking for was to do that bare minimum, and, and meet the, the pay systems that, you know, the board had supported and said, This is what, how we're going to pay our folks. And they're just simply not doing that." 

He hopes that changes moving forward.

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