Chairman Mahl Testimony

Councilmember Allen, Councilmember Bonds, committee members, and fellow guests - good afternoon. My name is Matthew Mahl, and I am the Chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Labor Committee, the labor union which represents the approximately 3,400 officers, detectives and sergeants of the Metropolitan Police Department.

On behalf of our members, I thank you for allowing me here this afternoon to testify regarding the “Force of 4200, Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017”and “First Responders Housing Incentive Program Amendment Act of 2017”. Recruitment and retention issues are plaguing our agency, and have been for some time now.

At a time when it is increasingly harder to be a police officer, agencies around the country are finding it more difficult to recruit and retain qualified police officers. Police agencies are learning that you have to provide for your force, the basic comforts and support that all employees deserve. Salary is among the top priority for our first responders followed up by working conditions and innovative scheduling. The Police Officer Recruitment and Retention bill addresses what I would call one of the most important aspects that our members are looking for.

We just exited an entrenched battle and went without raises for 8 years during our last contract negotiations, only to have an arbitrator award us nothing more than menial cost of living increases in salaries. The Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Act addresses this major concern for our first line responders by providing meaningful and sustainable growth in our compensation. The Metropolitan Police Department is a unique police agency; we serve as a Federal Police Force, State Police Force, County Sheriff, Local Police force and the stop gap between all other City services and the community. The compensation provided for in this bill directly effects and shows the City supports our police department, and values the jobs they do on a daily basis.

In just the last six (6) months, our Department has lost 149 active members, which will be just short of 300 police officers this year. 64 of those members, or 43% of those that left, resigned. Our recruitment initiatives fall short of our agency’s need. We have to develop programs that will put our agency at the top of an applicant’s list when determining where they want to be the police. Our pay, although commensurate with neighboring agencies falls short when you look five (5), ten (10), or fifteen (15) years down the road of my member’s careers. To remedy this we need to push for a higher, not just equal starting salary, for our new police officers. Additionally, we need to consider a salary step compression to ensure we retain our manpower. For example, if after 5 years at MPD an officer is making $80,000 they would be hard-pressed to leave our agency and take a $25,000 pay cut from one of our neighboring agencies.

Additionally, these bills directly address our concerns. The Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Act puts in place the resources we will need to have a meaningful and productive negotiation with the City regarding these often times contentious topics. If passed, we won’t have to sit down at the negotiating table anticipating the response we just don’t have the money to give.

With only around 620 police officers of a 3700 member force living within the District of Columbia, The Housing Incentive program is a good start and initiative for our members. While I think bringing monetary incentives for our public safety to live in the city they protect is a starting point, this Act only combats one small faction of the problem. With the astronomical cost of living in the District of Columbia, we need to couple this bill with higher wages and income tax exemptions to truly make a difference on recruitment and retention and trying to get our public safety workers to live in the city.

There are also other ways we can have real recruitment and retention tools: the Deferred Retirement Option Program is a cost neutral program that allows an officer to retire, but continue to work three (3) to five (5) years while setting aside their retirement annuity in a separate account; similar to an IRA. The DROP also allows the agency to plan better for retirement, therefore, avoiding the attrition issue we are currently experiencing. While this is not a part of the Police Officer Retention and Recruitment Act, this is one way we can provide a real and tangible program that will bring officers here and keep them here through retirement. The DROP is a far better choice that what we have now in the Senior Police Officer Program.

The Senior Police Officer program is largely failing and could be responsible for my members leaving in droves. This program, as implemented by the Agency, stifles the horizontal and vertical growth of officers, giving returning retired officers premium jobs that other members who are at the beginning or middle of their careers have been wanting. In fact, these historical incentives are the primary reason many applicants had joined MPD to begin with.

In closing, to be honest, if something is not done to make our agency more attractive our manpower will continue to spiral out of control. Those members left will struggle to manage the daily call volume that dwarfs all other legislatively comparable agencies. Community policing will suffer. Crime will rise. Growth will slow. This cannot happen. We feel these bills and suggested initiatives are a good start. It is incumbent on the City to work with the Metropolitan Police Labor Committee to heal this hemorrhaging.

Posted April 10 2017 at 1:11 PM by DC Police Union News | Permanent Link

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