The following testimony was presented by Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier to the District of Columbia Council Committee on Public Safety & the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on April 30, 2010, 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 proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). 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 three years. As I reported to this Committee last month, the hard work of the men and women of MPD is producing results. With a 23 percent reduction in homicides in 2009, the District recorded the lowest number of homicides in over four decades. Overall, violent crime was down 4 percent last year. MPD response time to Priority 1 calls for service fell for the third year in a row; in 2009 we achieved a 15 percent reduction in response time. The District of Columbia also had the lowest number of traffic fatalities since the city began tracking this. Most importantly, MPD is setting the standard in homicide investigations. In 2009, MPD had a 76 percent closure rate, 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 $479.9 million and 4,867 full-time equivalent positions, or FTEs. This is a decrease of $30.7 million, or 6 percent, from the current FY2010 budget. This includes a decrease of $29 million in local funding, and almost $2 million in non-local funding.
The Department has been able to weather the challenging economic times while still improving public safety because over the past three years, Mr. Carmody, my staff, and I have been dedicated to finding new efficiencies and savings for the Department and the city. And these efforts are paying off. From FY 2007 to FY2009, locally funded overtime was reduced by $12 million, even as arrests and closure rates have increased. This trend is continuing, with court overtime down 40 percent so far this fiscal year. In FY 2008, I began to focus on fleet usage. As part of that effort, we have reduced our fleet by more than 150 vehicles and replaced many of our larger vehicles with smaller more fuel efficient vehicles. These measures, in combination with increased foot patrols, strict accountability on take home cars and monitoring of fuel usage, have resulted in significant efficiencies. On average, we are driving 100,000 fewer miles per month and using about 10,000 fewer gallons of fuel per month. Additional savings have been realized in other non-personal service funds, such as almost $450,000 saved from renegotiating printer and copier contracts and related ongoing costs.
Even as we have reduced costs within MPD, we continue to examine 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 MPD’s fleet contract, our Fleet Maintenance Division now covers maintenance of Protective Services Division vehicles. In addition, our efforts to enhance traffic safety, which I will discuss later, do not just focus on speeding and other violations that endanger all who use our roadways – including pedestrians and bicyclists; it also addresses commercial vehicles that damage city infrastructure, thereby hopefully reducing the wear and tear on streets that the Department of Transportation must address.
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The District is very fortunate to have dedicated sworn and civilian members of the police department who are helping to make the city safer than it has been in almost 50 years. I would like to highlight two provisions within the budget that are critical to these hard-working public servants and their families. The first relates to a legislative proposal in the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Support Amendment Act of 2010, or the “BSA,” to restore post-retirement health benefits for police and firefighters. As you know, last summer, the city had to quickly move to close a projected budget gap in July before the start of the new fiscal year. This unusual situation led to changes in retiree health benefits being incorporated into the FY10 budget. After working closely together with the Mayor, City Administrator, and Attorney General, we were able revise the retiree health benefits policy in order to minimize the impact on police officers and firefighters. However, two key legislative changes were still needed to enact these policy changes. I would like to thank Councilmember Cheh for sponsoring the Police and Firefighter Post-Retirement Health Benefits Emergency Amendment Act, which was passed by the Council last October to immediately restore the District contribution level for health benefits for covered family members of officers killed or injured in the line of duty. Title I, Subtitle L in the FY11 BSA would make this legislative change permanent. Since no member covered by this legislation will be eligible to optionally retire until 2012, there was ample time to make the second required legislative change in the current BSA. Therefore the same Subtitle also restores the benefit level for optional retirees, so that for all members retiring after 25 years of service in this physically and emotionally demanding profession, the District will continue to contribute 75 percent of the costs of their selected health care plan.
The second important provision in the proposed FY11 budget is the $4 million savings in personal services attributable to holding salary steps constant beginning in June 2010, through September 30, 2011. We ask our police officers and their families to make many sacrifices in order to have a safer city for our residents and visitors. And they have delivered – driving down homicides and other violent crimes, and getting violent offenders off the streets. Therefore I would like to ensure that the hardworking men and women of MPD receive the modest step increases that they would have otherwise received. I understand that difficult financial choices must be made because I have been making them for the past three years. Given the efficiencies that I have achieved for both the Department and the city, I believe I can find the $4 million savings elsewhere. I hope that the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary will support me in this effort.
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Lastly, I would like to mention a provision in the BSA (Title VI, Subtitle L) that would enhance traffic safety in the District. The District of Columbia is a recognized leader in traffic safety, and over the years we have implemented model laws. In 2009, there were 33 fatalities, the lowest number in decades. But more can be done to enhance safety in DC for all who use the roads – drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Willful disregard for existing laws – including speeding and pedestrian violations – are the most frequent factors in traffic fatalities. While the District’s traffic laws are progressive, in many cases the fines for violations are far lower in DC than in Maryland and Virginia. The District will be able to enhance safety on our roads by aligning penalties with our neighbors, especially in four key areas: speeding, pedestrian safety, commercial vehicles, and mechanical safety. It has been alleged that this proposal is just intended to increase revenue. That could not be further from the truth. MPD does not benefit from the revenue stream from traffic citations, and the officers in MPD’s Traffic Safety Division who initiated this proposal are focused on their traffic safety mission, not the city’s bottom line. Their only interest in the proposal is that they would like to respond to fewer crashes, with fewer serious injuries and fatalities. I join them in hoping that the Council will enact this proposal so as to deter dangerous driving, reduce traffic violations and, as a result, decrease crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives.
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I thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you to present the Mayor’s FY11 budget for the Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Carmody and I will be happy to address your questions at this time.
1 According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2008 Crime in the United States, the average homicide clearance rate of all cities with 500,000 to 999,999 residents was 53.6%. The 2009 comparison data will be available in October 2010.