The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department got a much-needed boost this week with the passage of Mayor Vincent Gray’s FY 2011 supplemental budget, which was voted on by lawmakers July 12.

The department, which has long complained of insufficient manpower, was awarded $10.8 million in extra funds after D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi announced a surplus of $107.1 million for the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets.

“The improving economy combined with revenue-raising initiatives enacted by District policymakers are generating stronger than expected revenue growth,” Gandhi stated in a letter sent to local officials on June 22.

Gray proposed that $74 million of the $107.1 million would be used to cover public safety and health care, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. The remaining $33 million would be used for the FY 2012 budget.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier publicly expressed her need for more officers during recent hearings before federal officials. She has said her department would need to hire 1,000 officers over the next four years to maintain the size of the police force. As of June 16, the police force is 3,851 and the chief of police projected that number to drop the next couple of months.

In response to that need, Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) introduced legislation on June 16 that would mandate the police department to have 4,000 sworn officers at all times.

“If the law said we must have 4,000 police officers, then the actual budget itself would have to fund that,” he said.

But, Lanier opposed the bill and instead, proposed a mandatory number for the number of civilian employees, who engage in administrative, technical and operational tasks.

“There’s no reason a police officer should be doing time and attendance,” Lanier testified at the hearing. “The number of sworn officers on the force should be flexible to go along with what our crime needs are day-to-day across the city.”

In addition to hiring more officers, the surplus of funds will offset some cuts for revitalization programs. Funding would be put in the city’s savings account, also known as fund balance, and move personnel from the capital budget to the city’s operating budget, which the fiscal institute supports.

But the institute said the surplus of funds will not be enough to cover “critical programs and services” such as housing, libraries and help for people with disabilities.

“With a provision that half of all new revenues in 2012 will be deposited in D.C.’s savings account, revenue estimates will need to grow another $70 million in order to cover these critical services,” said Jenny Reed, a policy analyst of the institute.

 

Erica Butler

AFRO Staff Writer