ACLU/NCA opposes OPC budget cut 04/02/09
OPC Annual Report for FY 2007 01/24/08
Policing the Police (Rosendall, Metro Weekly) 04/05/07
Eure opposes budget cut for Office of Police ComplaintsAgency Budget Hearing
Fiscal Year 2010
Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary
Phil Mendelson, Chair
Philip K. Eure, Executive Director
Office of Police Complaints
April 1, 2009
Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. I am Philip Eure, the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC). I am accompanied today by Ivelisse Cruz, OPC’s deputy director, who is seated to my right. We appreciate this opportunity to provide testimony regarding OPC’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2010.
At OPC’s performance oversight hearing on March 9, 2009, we discussed our agency’s work and the developments at the agency during fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to date. At that time, we noted that OPC experienced a 36% surge in the number of complaints filed in fiscal year 2008, as well as an 11% increase in the number of complaints closed by the agency. In addition, our work included the most settlements through mediation ever. The agency also issued four detailed sets of recommendations for police reform that have already resulted in noticeable changes to policies, procedures, and training to address the issues identified in the reports. Overall, our agency’s efforts helped to further greater police accountability in Washington during fiscal year 2008.
Today, I would like to talk about our anticipated budgetary needs for fiscal year 2010. The Mayor’s proposed budget for OPC is $2,539,000. This proposal represents an overall decrease of $79,457 – or 3.0% – over OPC’s approved budget for fiscal year 2009. Broken into its component parts, the proposed budget decreases personal services (PS) by 1.5% and non-personal services (NPS) by 6.2%.
We recognize that all District government agencies currently face difficult times on the fiscal front and that OPC has the obligation to look for budgetary savings wherever possible. And we have done so in the past year. However, OPC operates solely on funds appropriated by the District’s General Fund and certain proposed funding reductions in both PS and NPS categories would severely affect the agency’s core functions and, consequently, negatively impact OPC’s ability to carry out its duties.
Looking first at personal services, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010 is $1,748,000, which is a reduction of $27,000 or 1.5% of the PS budget. This change reflects a decrease in the number of FTE’s that corresponds with interns from undergraduate institutions and law schools who provide critical support to the agency’s investigative and adjudicative functions during the summer months. The loss of these FTE’s, a 5.6 percent reduction in the total number of FTE’s assigned to the agency, would only exacerbate the effect of a growing workload faced by the agency.
In fiscal year 2008, OPC received 600 complaints, reflecting a dramatic increase of 36% over fiscal year 2007, as well as continuing a growth pattern in the number of complaints filed since fiscal year 2004. Among the factors that contribute to this rate of growth is the increasing number of citizen-officer interactions resulting from an increasing number of sworn officers employed by MPD.
According to the proposed budget plan for fiscal year 2010, MPD has hired 400 additional recruits in fiscal year 2008 to support new crime-fighting strategies, like the Chief’s “All Hands on Deck” initiative. OPC also has learned that MPD expects to hire an additional 150 officers in the near future. Most likely, then, the additional 550 officers will result in more police contacts with citizens and, therefore, more complaints filed with OPC during fiscal year 2009 and beyond. We understand that MPD will receive upwards of $40 million from the stimulus package to fund the hiring of new officers. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any private or federal funds available to police oversight agencies such as OPC to meet the increased workload associated with an increase in the total number of sworn officers.
The growth in the sworn officer ranks also will, unfortunately, have a negative impact on OPC’s investigator to sworn officer ratio, which is already exceptionally high when compared to those of similar “investigator model” oversight agencies in other cities. For example, the investigator to sworn officer ratio for San Francisco’s Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) is 1:140. New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) has a ratio of 1:253. In contrast, OPC’s investigator to sworn officer ratio is 1:315. If MPD expands its force to its stated target of 4,200 sworn officers, the ratio would increase to 1:350, which is more than double San Francisco’s statutory limit of one investigator for every 150 sworn officers and over a third higher than New York’s current ratio.
The investigator to sworn officer ratio is significant because it has a direct bearing on the ability of an oversight agency to conduct professional and timely investigations of police misconduct complaints. High ratios lengthen the amount of time it takes to investigate a complaint, which can affect the public’s confidence in a city’s citizen oversight mechanism, as well as sap the morale of officers who have to contend with unresolved complaints pending against them. Moreover, a high ratio undermines the overall effectiveness of a police oversight agency by, according to one expert, significantly impeding the ability to root out police misconduct and police corruption. (Samuel Walker, Police Accountability: The Role of Citizen Oversight, 77, 78 (2001)) Factors such as investigative delays and backlogs are precisely what led to the demise of the District’s Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1995.
Of equal concern is the reduction in OPC’s non-personal services budget. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2010 is $791,000, which is a decrease of $53,000 or 6.2%. The budget plan proposes a 7.1% reduction to the non-fixed cost portion of OPC’s budget, which, among other things, supports our mediation and complaint examination programs. This reduction in funding for these core functions comes precisely at a time when the number of complaints that OPC is responsible for handling is rising precipitously.
We believe that the proposed 4.2% increase in monies from the General Fund for MPD reflects the laudable objective of enlarging the sworn officer ranks and enhancing police protection throughout the District. The potential degradation of OPC’s ability to oversee police activities is inconsistent, however, with this objective, given the large increase in the number of officers whose conduct OPC is being asked to monitor. Therefore, with an increase in the number of officers, there must also be adequate resources to ensure meaningful police oversight.
Unfortunately, the budget submitted for OPC for fiscal year 2010 will not allow us to maintain our current service level, much less permit us to address an increase in the amount of alleged police misconduct that, in all likelihood, will occur. Although we strive to carefully manage our budget, we anticipate that if the proposed budget for our agency is approved, we will not be able to provide core services in investigation, mediation and adjudication. Therefore, based on the information furnished during my testimony, we ask that OPC be treated in a similar manner to MPD during the fiscal year 2010 budget process and in a way that acknowledges MPD’s growing police force.
This concludes my prepared remarks. We would like to thank the Committee for its time and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.