The Capitol Police Department has cut its attrition rate by more than half in the last year, marking a five-year low in turnover at the law enforcement agency.
Just a few days before the close of fiscal 2003, the department reported it lost 4.9 percent of its more than 1,500-member force during the year, down from 13.4 percent in fiscal 2002.
Although figures were not available from the Capitol Police, a General Accounting Office report issued in June found 160 of the department’s 1,278 officers left in fiscal 2002 for other agencies or for reasons including retirement, disability, death, layoffs and misconduct.
Capitol Police officials attribute the drop in attrition to a range of incentive programs — including college tuition reimbursement and additional pay for specialized training — mandated in the 2003 omnibus spending bill.
“There’s a lot of incentives now,” said police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel, noting that the department’s starting salary of $43,166 is the highest of any police force in the D.C. area.
“People are starting to take advantage of these” programs, Gissubel said, though she said statistics on the number of officers enrolled in various programs are not available because some of the programs are still relatively new.
Despite the increased retention this year, the fiscal 2002 attrition figures were somewhat of an anomaly because the force lost a large number of officers that year likely because of the newly created Transportation Security Administration.
Capitol Police have previously attributed the record 13.4 percent rate that year to officers seeking employment as federal air marshals.
Prior to TSA’s creation, the department had reported attrition rates of 6.3 percent in fiscal 1999, 9.1 percent in fiscal 2000, and 7.4 percent in fiscal 2001.
But Gissubel said the improving retention will have only a nominal impact on the department’s recruiting efforts.
“Recruiting will still actively be out there,” she said.
While the department does not have plans to alter its requirements to qualify for the force, Gissubel said, the recruiting division could make changes to accommodate a higher retention rate. For example, the department could possibly scale back the number of times it offers the entrance exam from twice a week to once a week.
“The difference between hiring 200 [officers] a year and 50 a year … that in itself will cause more competition,” she said.