A controversial crime fighting tool that some District residents support while others don’t is set to be launched in the near future.


All Hands on Deck, the program where all available police officers and recruits of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department are called to duty and assigned to street patrol for 48 hours will be instituted from Aug. 28-30. While it is not clear the specific reason that D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, an AHOD enthusiast, will deploy this tool, the city’s troubling homicide rate, which stands at 102 at AFRO press time, could be one of the major reasons. During the program, officers will be required to patrol neighborhoods from 8.5 hours to 12 hours.

“Good police work, requires that every officer interact with the residents of the communities they are assigned to protect,” Lanier said. “The department will continue to do all it can to provide the highest quality of service possible to our citizens. All Hands on Deck is successful thanks to the support of residents and the dedication and hard work of my officers.”

The program began in 2007 as part of Lanier’s Summer Crime Initiative aimed at controlling crime trends in the city by putting more officers on patrol and engaging in personal interactions with residents. Lanier has implemented the program regularly throughout her tenure and that has upset Delroy Burton, the chairman of the D.C. police union, a foe of the tool.

“You create this huge vacuum of staffing in the middle of the week in order to have this public relations stunt,” Burton told the {AFRO}. Burton said that AHOD interferes with officers trying to schedule personal time off, there is no guaranteed overtime for officers working during that period and the tool is a violation of the labor contract that the union has with the police department.

The contract between the union and the police doesn’t mention the program. The union has consistently argued that since the All Hands on Deck program isn’t in the contract, it is not legal but Lanier said that District law gives her extralegal powers to call for such crime fighting tools when she sees fit, even in the absence of a state of emergency that can only be called by the mayor, the U.S. Congress or the president of the United States.

However, the police union has won three decisions by independent arbitrators to pay officers time and a half for their participation in the extended-hour patrols in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Burton said the program hasn’t decreased crime and questions whether community interaction has improved with its implementation. Kathy Henderson, a Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner who strongly supports the police in her area of Trinidad in Northeast, respectfully disagrees with Burton and said she is a fan of the program.

“I am always happy when All Hands on Deck is instituted,” Henderson said. “Every available law enforcement officer should be out there on the streets fighting crime. Police officers have the skills to fight crime and while I think it is great that there are some officers in administrative jobs, they too should out in the streets make sure that people are safe.”

Henderson said that the District has had a 20 percent overall increase in crime and a 36 percent uptick in violent crime as compared to last year at this point, justifying a need for the program. She said that her constituents like  the new initiative.

“People whom I represent tell me that they feel safer walking not driving to the store when they see a police officer around,” the commissioner said.

While Henderson understands the criticism of AHOD by the police union and others, she said her mind is made up.

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “People who don’t like All Hands on Deck mean well but they are misguided. You never hear citizens complain about having too many police officers around.”

Greg Rhett, a Ward 7 resident, isn’t as enthusiastic about the program as Henderson is.

“I really don’t know how effective it is and whether it is the answer to all of these homicides that are taking place,” Rhett, who has served as president of the Eastland Gardens Civic Association, said. “What’s going on now is much bigger than All Hands on Deck. The police aren’t committing the shooting and the stabbings that are taking place and the community needs to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.

Still, Henderson said the program’s deployment has an indirect benefit.

“Residents can’t talk about things such as improving schools or increasing economic development when their neighborhoods aren’t safe,” she said. “All Hands on Deck is needed so that those conversations among residents can take place. Honestly, I think we need All Hands on Deck as much as humanly possible.”