The mayor and police chief of Washington, D.C., have offered up various excuses for the city’s ballooning murder numbers, ranging from synthetic drugs to high caliber weapons, but critics from within the police department say its much simpler than that.
Police officer representatives from the D.C. Police Union say the city needs to focus on effective policing, not feel good tactics.
In January, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier disbanded all of the police department’s vice units and instead turned all of their investigations over to a centralized narcotics unit.
At the end of May, those vice officers were sent back to patrol units, which is when Marinos Marinos, secretary of the DC Police Union, said crime in the city started to “spiral out of control.”
“Drug dealers and gang members have taken advantage of this lack of enforcement,” Marinos said in a statement. “Officers who patrol and residents who live in or frequent some of these volatile neighborhoods will tell you that the open air drug markets are flourishing, spurring unchecked violence between the factions fighting for control over the drugs, guns, and money.”
On Aug. 13, in response to the huge increase in violent crime, Bowser and her Public Safety Team convened to brainstorm ideas to tackle the rising murder count.
The ideas they came up with included setting up new lighting and cameras in problem neighborhoods, and the mayor is even considering “legislative changes” to combat gun violence in the city, despite already having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
Neither Bowser nor Lanier could come up with a definitive cause of the surge in violence, though Lanier said there has been a “huge influx of guns” and high-capacity magazines into the city as of late, and that could be a contributing factor.
According to Marinos, all of the reasons Lanier has given for the recent violent streak — drugs, high capacity firearms and gambling — are things that would have been handled by those vice units.
“The current deployment strategies being employed are nothing short of an embarrassment and are not fooling anyone,” Marinos said. “Fixed posts, light towers, pop-up canopies? This city needs proactive policing, not scarecrows on the corner.”
Lanier fired back at the Police Union at a Wednesday press conference about the accusations that her policies are to blame for the rising murder numbers, The Washington Post reports.
“Vice units were very, very effective for drug organizations in the ’90s,” Lanier told reporters. “But they are not as effective today.”
According to Lanier, her policies are working as they are supposed to, citing the 102 guns seized in the past month and the more than 500 drug arrests since June. She said her office has received more requests for lights and cameras than she can even respond to.
“I think the numbers right now are showing that we are being effective on the drug organizations that are involved in violence,” she said.
Still, the union is calling for the mayor and chief to immediately reinstate the vice squads under a 90-day assignment that would provide a rapid response in the most affected neighborhoods.
“We are calling for 100 members—10 to 12 officers per district, one sergeant, and one lieutenant—to be immediately detailed to a 90-day assignment to district vice offices,” Marinos said.