Washington, D.C.'s police force is facing its most drastic staffing shortage in half a century as homicides and other crimes are on the rise, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
At the end of March, the agency reported a net loss of about 450 over the past three years, and MPD chief Robert J. Contee III expects the current 3,350-officer force to shrink to about 3,130 by the end of fiscal year 2024, the Washington Post reported.
"Absent significant shifts in national employment levels, the environment for law enforcement, or the interest of younger generations in long-term government careers, MPD staffing may not recover for more than a decade," Contee told lawmakers at a March 31 city council hearing.
The historic exodus of D.C. law enforcement comes as left-wing progressive policies do little to curb rising crime in the nation's capital. Homicides exceeded 200 in both 2021 and 2022, a number the city hadn't seen since 2003, and killings were up 25 percent from this time last year. Carjackings in the city were up 200 percent from 2020 to 2022. The chairman of the D.C. police union, Greggory Pemberton, told the U.S. House Oversight Committee in March that the city council's proposed criminal code revision, which reduced penalties for offenses including illegal gun possession and carjacking, "has resulted in a mass exodus of sworn law enforcement officers and an exponential increase in violent crime." Congress and President Joe Biden later rejected the revision.
D.C. is just one of many cities trying to tackle a historic crime surge with a dwindling number of officers. In New York City, 239 cops resigned in January and February, an enormous 117 percent increase from two years ago. A Police Executive Research Forum survey noted this pattern across state police departments, the Post reported:
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."