A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum of law enforcement agencies in 38 states and in D.C. found a similar pattern: Departments have increased the pace of hiring but are not able to keep up with attrition. The institute, which advises law enforcement agencies on best practices, found that the total police staffing of the agencies surveyed dropped nearly 5 percent over the past three years.

The research forum's executive director, Chuck Wexler, said the number of people applying to be police officers had dropped even before the pandemic and nationwide protests over police misconduct in 2020. But he said even fewer people want to pursue careers in law enforcement "in the wake of the national narrative over policing. It's pretty negative."

Contee hopes to hire 20 new officers each month, but he says the new hires won't make up for the 30 to 35 officers the force is losing per month. Mayor Muriel Bowser's (D.) proposed 2024 budget would decrease police funding by 2 percent but would maintain $5.4 million for recruitment, bonuses for new hires, and funding "alternative justice programs."