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Tipsheet

D.C. Police Force Falls Below 3,800 Officers

With homicides surging more than 50 percent this year, it’s probably not a comfort to residents of Washington D.C. that their police force has dropped to its lowest levels in 10 years (via WaPo):

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As of Dec. 17, D.C. police had 3,786 officers, according to the mayor’s office, falling from more than 3,929 a year ago. Meanwhile this year, homicides across the District have surged more than 50 percent, and a spike in robberies in some neighborhoods instilled renewed fear of a return to the higher crime rates of the 1990s. Though police say violent crime is at its lowest level in seven years, residents polled put crime at the top of their worries this year.

District police say that they have been unable to keep up with attrition triggered by the retirements of officers who joined the force during a hiring binge in 1989 and 1990. From January 2014 through October, the department lost 764 officers — more than half through retirement — and hired 562.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier did not respond to a request for an interview. But in her last budget memo to the D.C. Council, the chief said that by the end of this year more than half of the command staff, one-third of all lieutenants and detectives and nearly one-third of all sergeants would be eligible to retire. She wrote in a letter to residents posted on the Internet that the departures “present a challenge.”

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Yet, the publication noted that 3,800 isn’t a “magic number,” and that city officials have been planning for these waves of retirements within the ranks of the D.C. Police.

In October, the city saw its 130th homicide. In 2014, the city only had 105 homicides. While this year we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of homicides in D.C., the past four years were generally calm (for lack of a better term). There were only 88 homicides in 2012 and 108 in 2011. Yet, 2009 saw 144 homicides, with 2008 being even higher with 186. In fact, if you look at the homicide rates going back to 1995, you’ll see that the District is something of a roller coaster. Sadly, this year may just be one of those where the rate spikes, but it surely doesn’t mitigate the need to keep residents in the city safe.

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