All hands on the police dept.’s deck

November 8, 2007

Following fifteen homicides in the two-week period before Halloween, District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier declared last weekend the fourth “All Hands on Deck” weekend since June last Thursday. The initiative, which requires all patrol officers to work eight-hour shifts during a 48-hour period, has been met with criticism from officer labor representatives and skepticism from community members.

“The point of AHOD is to have more officers on patrol, meeting and greeting, in addition to patrolling and making arrests,” MPD spokesperson Traci Hughes said. “The goal is to improve community policing.”

Lanier, who began her tenure as Police Chief in January, first implemented the AHOD initiative in June. The MPD made 481 arrests during this AHOD weekend, mostly for traffic violations, drug offenses and disorderly conduct. During the same weekend last year, MPD made 385 arrests. During AHOD 62 violent crimes, including two homicides, were committed, an increase of 28 from the same weekend the year before.

To prevent the District from having to pay them for overtime, officers were required to take a day off during the week before the AHOD.

“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” Hughes said. “The only thing we can do is increase patrols. There’s been a nationwide increase in violent crime. It ebbs and flows. I’m not mentioning it as an excuse, but all we can do is do our best to deter and prevent crime.”

Although this AHOD weekend was publicly announced on Thursday, Hughes said that it had been scheduled well before the recent spike in homicides. The Second District, which includes Georgetown, was unique in that it implemented AHOD on Halloween since that is traditionally a high-crime day in the Second District.

Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Committee Chairman Ed Solomon supported the increase in police presence but was uncertain about the utility of the AHOD initiative.

“We’re constantly asking for police presence in the community as a matter of safety,” Solomon said. “We think it’s positive. We just hope it doesn’t reduce their presence on other days. And some people are questioning whether it actually reduced crime.”

Lieutenant Roland Hoyle, the officer in charge of Georgetown’s Police Service Area, was unsure whether AHOD prevented crime but did embrace the increase in police presence.

“There were a lot of police out there,” Hoyle said. “You would have had to walk a couple blocks away if you wanted to commit a crime. Most people in 2-D usually feel pretty safe, but it’s always good to have more police around.”

Lanier’s initiative has come under fire from the MPD chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents law enforcement officers in labor negotiations. Kristopher Baumann, the Labor Committee Chairman of the MPD chapter, criticized AHOD as an ineffectual drain on police resources, saying that tougher laws, not AHOD, are the proper response to the national increase in violent crime.

“I don’t think it’s effective and I don’t understand it,” Baumann said. “They’ve said it’s for various reasons and various purposes. I’d like a clear explanation of what it’s supposed to accomplish.”

Hughes said that AHOD’s success could only be measured by the positive community response, not hard numbers.

Baumann argued that requiring officers to work long shifts is demoralizing and causes them to take more days off, weakening the MPD. “If we need that many police officers on the street, the department and the city have the obligation to hire and maintain that many,” Baumann said, citing MPD’s 1,000 employee turnover in the last four years.

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