The following testimony was presented by Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier to the District of Columbia Council Committee on the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on April 1, 2009, at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Chairman Mendelson, members of the Council, staff and guests, I appreciate the opportunity to present this statement outlining the Metropolitan Police Department’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2010. Martin Carmody, MPD’s Agency Fiscal Officer, and other members of the Department are with me to assist in responding to your questions. The text of my prepared testimony is posted on the Department’s website, www.mpdc.dc.gov.
The Mayor’s proposed budget reaffirms the importance of safe neighborhoods and proactive policing, and builds upon the gains we have achieved over the past two years. As I reported to this Committee just three weeks ago, the hard work of the men and women of MPD is producing results. Violent crime was down 5 percent last year and the number of illegal guns recovered was up 10 percent. MPD response time to priority 1 calls for service fell for the second year in a row; in 2008 we achieved a 9 percent reduction in response time even as call volume increased 15 percent. The District of Columbia also had the lowest number of traffic fatalities in almost 30 years. Most importantly, MPD is setting the standard in homicide investigations. In 2008, MPD had a 75.3 percent closure rate, its highest homicide closure rate in more than 27 years. This is more than 20 percent above the average for comparably sized US cities. (1)
The Mayor’s proposed budget continues the investment in the Department that is helping us to make this progress. Briefly, the budget provides funding from all sources of $523.3 million and 4,880.5 full-time equivalent positions, or FTEs. This is an increase of $26.3 million, or more than 5 percent, over the current FY2009 budget. Almost all of this increase, $25.6 million, is in non-local funding. MPD’s local budget is increasing $650,000, or only one-tenth of one percent increase over this year.
As we prepared for this year’s budget exercise, I asked my staff to rededicate themselves to our efforts to find new efficiencies and savings for the Department and the city. And we have done so. Last year we reduced locally funded overtime by 57,700 hours, which saved the District $2.8 million. On top of the Fiscal Year 2008 reduction, locally funded overtime is down another 49,000 hours this fiscal year. This is a 23 percent reduction that saves an additional $2.4 million. Over the past two years, we have also reduced our fleet by more than 100 vehicles and replaced many of our larger vehicles with smaller more fuel efficient vehicles. These measures, in combination with strict accountability on take home cars and monitoring of fuel usage, have resulted in a reduction in fuel usage in the first five months of FY09 of 57,000 gallons, or more than 8 percent.
In addition to these ongoing efforts, several months ago I also asked my staff to develop a set of recommendations on how MPD could ensure that we continue to provide critical services in the upcoming fiscal year. Like MPD’s public safety efforts, I wanted MPD’s budgeting process to be proactive, instead of reactive. It was my goal to present to the Mayor and the City Administrator a set of plans that would enhance public safety and would also acknowledge the difficult situation facing the District. I believe the budget before you does just that.
We have examined each and every line item and have found savings or efficiencies in all of them. We have eliminated vacant positions, and have plans to absorb this realignment in a way that minimizes any impact on service to the public and on our primary mission of policing. Let me give you some examples. In our payroll department we are eliminating a Payroll Technician. This may necessitate reducing hours that the payroll department is open to walk-in questions on one day every two weeks when the payroll is being produced. In Corporate Support we have eliminated several positions. We expect to sign an agreement with the federal Office of Personnel Management whereby MPD will perform background checks on their applicants. In exchange we will generate a revenue stream that will support up to two replacement staff. And, finally, in our print shop where we have eliminated two positions, we are moving to create a consolidated copy center within the Headquarters building which will reduce the quantity of leased machines and create efficiencies with supplies.
We have also looked at how our resources can be leveraged to boost efficiency for other District agencies and the city’s overall budget. For example, using the flexibility in our fleet contract, MPD’s Fleet Maintenance Division is picking up the maintenance of Protective Services Division vehicles at no cost to PSD or MPD. The Traffic Division is also initiating a weigh-in-motion program that will help prevent damage to city streets and deploying hand-held devices that will reduce the burden on Adjudication Services by enhancing the consistency and neatness of tickets.
As in past years, most of MPD’s budget, 80 percent, is for personal services. An important change in the FY10 budget is the movement of 150 sworn FTEs from local funds to Federal grant funds. If we receive approximately $6.0 million in COPS grant funding, MPD can continue moving toward 4,200 police officers. In the meantime, we have almost 200 recruits in the Academy who will be deployed to patrol when they graduate this year. And we expect that once the grant funding is available in the fall, we will be able to kick start the hiring process again. One side-effect of the current economic climate is that we are seeing an increase in applications, which will leave us well positioned to quickly ramp up hiring.
I would also like to highlight upcoming plans for automated traffic enforcement. There have been some allegations that the goal of automated traffic enforcement is to generate revenue. I would like to set the record straight about this. Traffic safety is an important concern for residents in communities across the District. To that end, last year I hired a new program manager to help reinvigorate the Department’s traffic safety and enforcement efforts. Part of that effort includes maximizing our use of technology to consistently enforce District laws and modify driving behaviors that are detrimental to public safety. The technology is a force multiplier that allows our officers to devote more time to other community policing and enforcement efforts. Moreover, automated enforcement is not our only effort to make our roads safer – it is just the only measure that is highlighted in the budget. As I noted earlier, this year MPD is deploying 100 hand-held ticket devices to improve the accuracy and efficiency of our traffic tickets.
The goal of the District's Automated Traffic Enforcement program is straightforward: to reduce traffic violations and, as a result, decrease crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives. Overall, red light violations are down an average of 75 percent, with almost 20,000 fewer red light runners in the District each month just at the monitored 49 intersections. Photo speed violations are typically reduced by 40-80 percent through consistent enforcement. I have no doubt this contributed to the lowest number of traffic fatalities in the District in almost three decades. The public safety gains made so far strongly suggest that this program should be expanded. Later this year we expect to add additional speed enforcement units. In FY2010 we will expand the enforcement of existing laws using technology. I have heard the call for gridlock enforcement in the downtown area, and we will respond. Acting Transportation Director Klein has asked that we help monitor construction vehicles and prevent the destruction of streets by those trucks that are overloaded. Members of the Council, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and neighborhood activists have all asked for more red light and speeding cameras. And so we are working to respond to the city’s demand for more traffic enforcement.
Lastly, I would like to address the proposed budget for the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program, a separate budget dedicated to getting the Department ready for the District’s Consolidated Forensic Lab. The Metropolitan Police Department, and our lab director, Dr. Bill Vosburgh, oversee this Program, a “paper agency” charged with coordinating specialized training and resources for the personnel who will eventually staff the city’s Forensic Lab. The funds for this program are kept apart from MPD funds, however general management and oversight falls under MPD. The Program’s proposed operating budget for FY10 is $1.2 million dollars.
The Forensic Scientist Training Program cooperative with the FBI was successful. Eighteen forensic scientists have been hired and trained in DNA, Trace Evidence, Evidence Control and Quality Assurance. As you know, in the past we have experienced some staff turnover in these positions, which is typical for the forensic field in which trained professionals are in such high demand. However, the staffing has stabilized significantly, with no departures in two years. Several factors have contributed to this stability. For one, we expect to be breaking ground on the lab this spring, an important milestone signifying that our forensic team will soon be working in a state-of-the-art facility. In addition, last year we enacted a reclassification of job grades to help eliminate the pay disparity between forensic scientists we employ and the federal scientists in this area. I am especially pleased to report that our outstanding team of scientists was fully accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board in November 2008.
The program has undergone other significant changes in the past year. This past December, the satellite lab for MPD was relocated from the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, to the Bode Technology Group, Inc. in Lorton, VA in December 2008. This represents an innovative federal—local—private venture. The MPD technicians are analyzing current case DNA, while federal funding pays for Bode Lab technicians to work on cold case DNA.
Also, we expect that our Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, terminal will be activated shortly. For years, a significant technical limitation for MPD has been that, without our own forensic lab, we have been unable to take full advantage of the CODIS system – the repository of DNA samples that has been so beneficial in identifying offenders and solving cases nationally. Currently, the FBI Crime Lab is able to conduct DNA analyses only when we have a suspect in a case. As such, the DNA test is used largely to confirm the involvement of an already identified suspect. That is certainly beneficial, and, in fact, essential in many cases. However, with our own CODIS terminal, MPD will be able to conduct many more “cold-hit” analyses, in which DNA recovered at a crime scene is tested against the national repository. Needless to say, this has the potential to significantly increase our already high closure rates for homicides, rapes, and other crimes with physical evidence.
I thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you to present the Mayor’s FY10 budget for the Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Carmody and I will be happy to address your questions at this time.
- According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2007 Crime in the United States, the average homicide clearance rate of all cities with 500,000 to 999,999 residents was 54.6%. The 2008 comparison data will be available in October 2009.