Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled an expedited plan to offer increased incentives to officers who join the city’s police department , marking her latest efforts to address rising crime within the district.
New recruits who sign on with the Metropolitan Police Department will receive a $20,000 hiring bonus, beginning with the newest class of recruits joining Monday under the plan. Cadets will receive the bonus in two installments, earning $10,000 upon joining and receiving the second half after they graduate from the police academy, the mayor said.
“We know how critical it is to have a fully staffed and resourced MPD, and that requires us to hire strong talent and to retain experienced officers,” Bowser said. “These hiring bonuses will help MPD recruit and hire more officers to keep our city safe.”
The newly announced incentives aim to address a nationwide hiring shortage of police officers, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic and months of social unrest, MPD chief Robert Contee said. By hiring more cadets, the department hopes to increase the number of officers it has on the streets to prevent crimes and respond more quickly.
“It has been one of my visions for the department to retain members and take care of our own, who proudly show up to work each and every day,” Contee said. “Our goal is that these recruiting incentives will create a pipeline to success for residents and for our youth, who too often find themselves in harm’s way with illegal firearms and crime.”
The expedited timeline is meant to address rising crime rates in Washington, a focal point for the City Council as it worked to finalize its budget for the next fiscal year. Bowser initially requested $30 million in her budget proposal to retain and recruit more officers over the next year, aiming to have 4,000 uniformed police officers sworn in over the next 10 years.
The mayor’s proposal also sought an increase in city funds to go toward housing assistance and tuition benefits that the council ultimately trimmed down in its final budget. City lawmakers also rejected a suggested perk to allow officers to take their patrol cars home and rejected Bowser’s request to restore police officers to schools.
The council shaved off about $6 million from Bowser’s budget proposal for the MPD, prompting criticism from the mayor that city lawmakers were stifling her efforts to address safety concerns within the district. Councilman Charles Allen, who chairs the committee responsible for finalizing the budget, fired back that Bowser’s ambitions beyond the more modest proposal from legislators are politically motivated ahead of the primary election.
“It’s an obvious choice to try to gin up conflict where there is none. I prefer seeking common ground and keeping politics out of policy,” Allen said at the time. “The council is not the mayor’s rubber stamp, and to describe the committee’s support and dramatic expansion of these initiatives as a cut isn’t a serious response. The city needs leaders to stop pointing fingers and instead get to work.”
The expedited timeline will mean implementing the monetary incentives before the district budget takes effect on Oct. 1, Bowser said Friday.
“We sent the budget to the council in March, and that budget will be available on Oct. 1. But the chief came to me, and he said, ‘Mayor, it is my job to tell you what we need. And what we need is to be able to put those bonuses in place right now so that we are competitive,’” Bowser said. “We have a lot going for us, and I want everybody to understand that this government won’t stop until we drive down violent crime.”