Between 2015 and 2021, Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department was forced to rehire more than three dozen officers it had previously fired while also repaying $14 million in back wages, DCist reports. During those years, arbitration rulings forced the city to rehire two officers for every three it had fired in officers' appeals of their terminations, including 17 who had been fired for what the D.C. auditor's office called misconduct that posed a "threat to safety," such as physical and sexual violence, mishandling firearms or compromising evidence. The auditor found that MPD’s “failure to meet deadlines, follow procedures, and provide adequate evidence” also contributed to officers getting rehired.
The reinstatement process is costly to the District. On average, the entire termination and reinstatement process for an officer takes eight years — and D.C. had to pay the reinstated officers an average of $374,000 in back pay. Twenty officers were fired for “administrative” reasons, including misrepresentation of injuries, time theft, fraud, or other types of misconduct that didn’t involve the risk of harm to another person. As of September, 15 of those reinstated police officers are back on the force. Auditor Kathy Patterson said that the D.C. Council needs to be able to clarify disciplinary guidelines for police. “What we found is consistent with concerns raised by the Police Reform Commission,” said Patterson. “We’re recommending legislation to put elected officials in the driver’s seat on what is and is not behavior that merits termination from MPD.” However, the current system is undergoing changes due to a new contract between MPD and the D.C. police union that removes disciplinary processes from the negotiating table, allowing MPD to set its own disciplinary policies without the union weighing in.