Ramsey Rolls Out Reorganization Plan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 1998; Page B01
In his first reorganization since taking over five months ago, D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey will move 400 detectives and officers in specialized investigative units from department headquarters to the seven police districts.
Ramsey also will cut by half the number of officers assigned to protect the mayor and reassign a number of top department officials.
The top-to-bottom restructuring of the 3,555-member force will include creating sections such as contract monitoring, hiring more civilians to perform jobs currently done by officers, and devoting more of the budget to training in an effort to hold department employees more accountable.
The plan has the backing of the D.C. financial control board and will be phased in over the next three months. Details of the restructuring will be announced at department-wide meetings today at DAR Constitution Hall.
"It struck me one day that I can't fix this place," Ramsey said. "I really underestimated the problems. They really are systemic. We're not structured in a way to get work done."
Ramsey's plan is the fourth major departmental reorganization in four years. The previous three had mixed results.
Last year, then-Chief Larry D. Soulsby announced that he was redeploying 900 officers from desk jobs to patrol duties, but some police districts actually ended up with fewer officers than before Soulsby's redeployment. Less than one-third of the department's officers are assigned to patrol duty.
The control board also paid Booz-Allen & Hamilton more than $5 million to study the department and recommend widespread changes. Ramsey's plan incorporates none of the consultants' proposals.
Lawrence Sherman, chairman of the criminal justice department at the University of Maryland in College Park, said overhauling the department will do little to improve performance. Holding supervisors and frontline workers accountable is the key, he said.
"It's quite clear the problems with [D.C. police] have more to do with culture than structure," Sherman said. "If [Ramsey] is able to hold leaders accountable for performance, that could be a key step in changing the culture."
Ramsey's plan would eliminate the bureau structure and replace it with three regional operations command centers, or ROCS, each headed by an assistant chief who will work out of offices in the field. The northern region will include the 2nd and 4th police districts; the central region will include the 1st, 3rd and 5th police districts; and the eastern region will include the 6th and 7th police districts.
"The assistant chiefs are getting out of this [headquarters] building and out into the field," Ramsey said. "Accountability needs to be geographically based."
Each of the three regional operations centers also will have a team of officials who focus on operations and management issues, Ramsey said. Each region will have canine and youth investigations units.
The specialized units, including homicide, traffic and sex offenses will be disbanded and its officers moved to the seven police districts.
The homicide unit, which has been criticized for solving too few slayings, for abusing overtime pay and for not following basic procedures, was decentralized in 1994 by Chief Fred Thomas. Soulsby brought detectives back to headquarters and later, at Booz-Allen's suggestion, sent the detectives back to the seven district stations. Earlier this year, the interim police chief, Sonya T. Proctor, brought the detectives back to headquarters.
Under Ramsey's reorganization, the 300 detectives now assigned to specialized squads will be moved to the existing seven police districts. There, they will work in one of two squads: one that investigates property crimes such as burglary or one that investigates violent crimes such as homicide or serious assaults.
One issue that Ramsey still must address is space. The seven police districts already are cramped and poorly maintained. They lack sufficient computers and telephone lines for the existing staff.
Ramsey also said he will reduce the mayor's security detail from 15 officers to eight although many of the current mayoral candidates have said the detail needs only two officers.
The chief will increase the portion of the department's budget devoted to training and offer management and leadership training to officers. He also plans to send teams of officers and residents into the community to provide problem-solving training, such as how to rid the neighborhood of a crack house.
The 83 patrol service areas, or PSAs, will each have one lieutenant and as many as six sergeants, Ramsey said. Currently, there is one lieutenant for every two PSAs. Most of the sergeants will be assigned to patrol. The lieutenants will act as the administrator for each PSA.
"Someone has to be accountable for everything that happens in the PSAs over a 24-hour period," Ramsey said. "Not only are we going to fix accountability, we're going to fix managerial authority."
Crime scene technicians, who "used to sit in the districts waiting for calls to come in," will be assigned to PSAs, Ramsey said. Each district will have a captain on duty 24 hours a day, Ramsey said.
Ramsey is considering hiring a civilian to oversee the operations unit, which includes the 911 emergency system, records and the central cellblock. He already has hired at least five civilians to run personnel, communications and strategic planning.
Control board member Robert Watkins, who oversees public safety issues, said he thinks Ramsey's plan will improve operations.
"The object of the game the reorganization is to get more police officers out in the areas where they can be more effective," Watkins said yesterday. "I think you have to start some place."
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