D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey was online Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 11:15 a.m. ET to discuss stepped-up security procedures at the U.S. Capitol, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund headquarters and the establishment of other checkpoints throughout the city due to al Qaeda terror threats.
A transcript follows.
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Chief Ramsey, thanks for joining us again on washingtonpost.com. With D.C. under threat from al Qaeda, how is the Metropolitan Police Department handling security needs? Do you have the force to do it? Will you need federal assistance?
Charles H. Ramsey: Thanks for having me back. Right now we are able to handle the latest terrorist threat warning at the World Bank and IMF, and still maintain our patrol strength in our neighborhoods. The IMF and World Bank detail will be staffed primarily by officers on overtime. I am told that those expenses will be reimbursed by the federal government.
What type of control does the MPD have about the security checkpoints? Are you obligated to assist the Capitol Police with security, if you're not part of the decision-making body?
Charles H. Ramsey: The checkpoints implemented by the Capitol Police were designed, and are being manned, solely by the U.S. Capitol Police. We were not part of the decision-making process. We are deeply concerned that these checkpoints will have a tremendous impact on traffic in surrounding neighborhoods, especially when more people are back at work and school in the fall. In the future, there needs to be coordination with the District government prior to any federal agency closing streets or changing traffic patterns.
My fiancee works one block away from the World Bank. She has noticed no heightened security measures; furthermore she says that she feels very unsafe and not protected by the Police. She walks around with large bags, and has not been stopped or asked what she is carrying. Are the police simply waiting for something to happen before reacting? Are you trying to actually prevent something or just wait and see?
Charles H. Ramsey: The enhanced security measures were just put in place yesterday. The fact that we are acting now demonstrates that we are not waiting for something to happen. The measures we have taken are preventive in nature. People should feel free to continue to work in and visit our city.
The photo on washingtonpost.com of the armed soldier on Metro was extremely disturbing. Why would anyone want to visit the city with that picture being posted? The next thing we are going to hear is how tourist dollars have dropped. Gun toting soldiers around the city are not the answer.
Charles H. Ramsey: Those images you saw in the Post were Metro Transit Police, which is a separate law enforcement agency. We have not taken that approach in MPD, even though we have members who are specially trained and capable of deploying similar weapons.
With the location of GWU's Foggy Bottom Campus and the IMF and World Bank buildings being essential on-campus, how will that affect life for us students come fall semester? The largest freshman dorm is right by one of the buildings and it is noted that there will be no parking along streets that many parents use to park to drop off their kids stuff for the next school year, how will this impact move-in for this fall? Will MPD have a greater role in securing the areas around GW and the IMF and World Bank?
Charles H. Ramsey: We are in touch with the Consortium of Universities, which represents George Washington and other universities in Washington, DC. We are developing a communications strategy for those students who are not currently on campus, so we can coordinate their returning to dorm rooms and other housing arrangements they may have. With the heightened security measures and inspections of vans and trucks, we want to ensure they can travel as safely as possible.
The Post reported today that the information used to raise the threat level to orange is primarily 3-4 years old.
Is it safe to assume that the checkpoints and preventive measures put in place yesterday will be active at least until after the November election? If not, what would be the rationale for eliminating the measures if they can be activated based on 3- or 4- year-old information, after we have been told new information is received everyday in Secretary Ridge's monthly press conferences?
Thanks in advance for taking my question.
Charles H. Ramsey: The MPD does not raise or lower national threat levels. We respond to information provided to us by Homeland Security and other federal agencies. We believe that the measures we have taken are in the best interests of protecting the city. While it is impossible to tell exactly how long the current threat level will be lowered, but it is quite possible it will remain through at least the November elections. We remain in close contact with our federal partners regarding threat information.
Is it correct that it would be nearly impossible for a truck to reach the World Bank or IMF building? Therefore, should we be alert to different means that someone would wish to attack a building, and what types of things should one notice as being out of place?
Charles H. Ramsey: One of the reasons we are taking the precautions we are taking is to prevent a truck bombing. But we need to balance the security needs with the need to permit commercial deliveries to take place in our city. We have stepped up our checks of trucks and vans around the IMF and World Bank, and we are working with the private security that already exists in this area to coordinate our efforts.
What measures, if any, is the MPD taking to improve communication to dc residents should an attack happen?
Charles H. Ramsey: The Mayor's Office and our Emergency Management Agency have extensive communications plans in place to alert the public in case of a terrorist attack or any other type of emergency. We recommend that the public monitor the radio and television should there be an incident, and follow the instructions that are provided. In addition, DC has implemented the D.C. Alert system that allows residents to get notifications via text pagers, cell phones, e-mail and the like.
I was caught up in traffic around the checkpoint on 18th St between F and G Sts. NW this morning. This is madness. You can't possibly check all cars going into and out of a certain garage w/o tying up traffic for blocks around. Are there any alternatives that can be considered, like checking employee garages at the World Bank and the IMF, or completely closing one or more surrounding garages?
Charles H. Ramsey: We ask that the public be patient and understand that the security measures we are taking are designed to make our city safe and secure. We need the cooperation of everyone to ensure these measures are successful.
It's fantastic that the World Bank, IMF and other Foggy Bottom landmarks will be so heavily protected, but what do you tell people in my neighborhood about more resources going to Ward 2, and being diverted away from already underserved wards?
Charles H. Ramsey: As I mentioned in the first question, we have not diverted any patrols away from neighborhoods. The detail at the IMF and World Bank is being handled through officers working overtime as well as specialized units. We need to balance the need for special security during times such as these, but we never lose sight that the primary mission of the MPD is to protect our neighborhoods. Homeland security is a part of our mission, and helps to keep our neighborhoods safe.
Charles H. Ramsey: Thank you for your questions. I encourage all D.C. residents to show their solidarity against crime this evening by participating in National Night Out. Crime prevention activities are taking place across the District. You can get details on our Web site at Metropolitan Police Department.