Correction to This Article
The article misstated the length of an officer's weekend work shift under the strategy. It is eight hours, not 12.

Some D.C. Victims, Detectives Question 'All Hands on Deck' Crime Initiative

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 2009

Litisha Payne's son Dante, 8, was walking home from summer school in Northeast Washington last week when a couple of teenage boys grabbed him by the throat in an alley, demanded money and pushed him up against a fence. Payne immediately spoke to the school and called D.C. police. A patrol officer took the report and told her to wait for a detective's call.

Payne said yesterday that she's still waiting.

"When I called the 6th District to find out if it had been assigned, they told me all of them were out because it was 'All Hands on Deck,' " Payne said.

All Hands on Deck is a crime-fighting tool in which extra officers, including detectives, hit the streets citywide over a weekend. The massive police presence, Chief Cathy L. Lanier says, reduces crime, brings police closer to the community and makes residents safer.

But Payne and other crime victims say the program has an unintended consequence: Some cases aren't getting to detectives in a timely manner, making it less likely that the criminals will be brought to justice.

"I didn't exactly know what 'All Hands on Deck' was before, but to know that they're taking detectives from one position to another, that just leaves anyone who's been violated kind of hanging," said Payne, 27.

The special citywide detail, in which officers work a pair of overtime shifts during a weekend, is an approach favored by Lanier. It was used most recently last weekend, when 2,500 officers were deployed on 12-hour shifts. Four more All Hands details are planned this year.

Lanier spokeswoman Traci Hughes said the program has not caused widespread problems for detectives. "Detectives are scheduled . . . on a rotational basis to avoid disruptions in their investigations," she said.

But some detectives don't see it that way. They say that All Hands assignments interrupt investigations and that investigators often take comp days after working the overtime shifts, further delaying their return to pending cases. An exception is made for homicide detectives, who are exempt from All Hands shifts.

Detective William Hawkins, for instance, pointed to a Capitol Hill burglary case that he was working last month. He said he received an e-mail from the victim that provided an updated list of missing items, including electronics and jewelry, along with the potential value of the items.

"I'm very anxious to get this investigation underway and to get a police report to give to the insurance company," wrote the woman, who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted again.

Hawkins responded in an e-mail the next morning that he would not get a chance to work on the case "for quite a while." He was scheduled for two days off and then had to report to Georgetown for an All Hands on Deck assignment. After that, he had mandatory training at the police academy, followed by a day off, a special Fourth of July detail and another All Hands on Deck.

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