- The Washington Times
Monday, April 4, 2022

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday her administration plans to recruit more women and city residents to replace police cadets who refused to get mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

Her proposed fiscal 2023 budget includes $30 million for “hiring, recruiting and retaining” to restore the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to 4,000 officers, Miss Bowser said at a news conference at Dunbar High School.

“That means hiring almost 350 officers this year and making sure we’re doing everything possible to keep the officers we have,” the Democratic mayor said.

The police force has “about 3,500 sworn members,” leaving the department nearly 500 officers short of what it has asked for, she added.

The D.C. Council must vote on the proposed funding.

Police Chief Robert Contee III said the $30 million proposal includes hiring bonuses and housing stipends to incentivize recruits to live in the city.

“We have to make sure that we are able to recruit the best and brightest police officers,” said Chief Contee, who appeared with Miss Bowser and police cadets at Monday’s news conference.

The District requires all city government workers, including police officers, to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, unless they are exempted for religious or medical reasons.

Last week, Chief Contee told city lawmakers that several police cadets leave the MPD each month after refusing the vaccines.

“If you are refusing to be vaccinated, you can be the best candidate in the world, but to join the ranks of the Metropolitan Police Department, we have to say no,” the police chief told the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

The MPD also has struggled with vaccine hesitancy, exhaustion and increases in mandatory overtime among veteran cops who commute from Maryland and Virginia.

According to data submitted to the D.C. Council, only 2,045 of the department’s 3,641 officers — about 56% — had received or been scheduled for a vaccine in March 2021.

Only 16% of the city’s police officers lived in the District at that time, while 59% resided in Maryland and 23% in Virginia.

Last December, Chief Contee told WRC-TV (Channel 4) that police manning figures had hit “the lowest [level] that we’ve had in over 20 years.”

Meanwhile, the District recorded 227 homicide victims last year, up from 198 in 2020.

The MPD has recorded 41 homicides this year, according to its dc.gov web page.

In addition to funds for hiring more officers, Miss Bowser’s budget includes money for non-police community interventions.

She’s asking the council for more than $80 million in non-police interventions such as youth recreation programs and “life coaches” for 250 residents deemed most at risk of being involved in gun violence.

That’s up from the $59 million the city spent in non-police interventions through the Building Blocks DC program in the 2022 budget, the mayor’s office said in a press release.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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