Ramsey Pledges a 'New Beginning'
By Cheryl W. Thompson
"Today is a new beginning for the Metropolitan Police Department, with a new attitude, a new confidence, a new set of expectations for the future," Ramsey told several hundred onlookers, including D.C. residents and law enforcement officials from across the region, crowded into a 10th-floor room at One Judiciary Square in Northwest Washington.
"You can expect a police department rooted in and guided by . . . honesty, integrity, respect for one another and for the community, fairness, dedication, commitment and accountability for individual actions and organizational results."
During a 50-minute ceremony that included remarks from elected city leaders, Ramsey, 48, promised to immediately purchase urgently needed supplies and equipment for the department's seven district stations. Many police officers who need cellular telephones do not have them, for example, and some of the stations, located in deteriorating buildings, are in need of fax machines and even notebooks.
Without offering specifics, he also said he plans to introduce a new community policing system "that responds to the needs of the District."
Under the community policing concept, officers work closely with residents and merchants on their beats, fighting crime before it occurs by trying to identify and eliminate circumstances that give rise to it.
"This is a unique city, and anything we do [regarding community policing] has to conform to that environment," Ramsey said.
The department's current system, based on "patrol service areas," or PSAs, has been criticized by residents and city officials for not working as intended because of personnel deployment problems.
Mayor Marion Barry, who played a large role in the search for a new chief, said he is pleased with the choice.
"We've had some dark and dreary days, [and] we still have some distance to go," Barry told the crowd. "But this is going to be a new day. Those who wreak havoc ought to be sad . . . because their activities are going to be short-lived."
Ramsey replaces Assistant Chief Sonya T. Proctor, who had been interim chief since Larry D. Soulsby abruptly retired in November. Ramsey takes control of a beleaguered department described in outside consultant reports as hobbled by gross mismanagement.
As Ramsey's 87-year-old, teary-eyed father held a Bible on which the incoming chief placed his right hand, Ramsey took the oath of office, administered by Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton of D.C. Superior Court. Ramsey's older sister looked on.
Ramsey's father, Charles, said he was so excited that he asked his daughter if she could hear his heart beating.
"You can't imagine how I feel," said the elder Ramsey, who lives in suburban Chicago and is a retired city bus driver. "I'm just so proud of him."
Besides his $150,000-a-year base salary, Ramsey will be given $12,000 in moving expenses.
Hours before Ramsey's swearing-in, D.C. Council members debated the new chief's contract. Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) questioned whether Ramsey is being paid too much.
"We have gotten to the point where two years ago we had no one making $100,000. Now we've got almost 70 people making $100,000," Chavous said.
Ramsey's contract language suggests that civilian control of the department will remain as it has been. After Barry was stripped of much of his control over the department last year, Soulsby, and then Proctor, reported to a management group known as the "memorandum of understanding" partners, a committee of elected and appointed District officials and public safety and criminal justice professionals.
Although the partners, including Barry, oversee the department, ultimate authority over the force rests with the D.C. financial control board.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company