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  •   Barnett Cautiously Backs Police Change

    By David A. Vise and Cheryl W. Thompson
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, March 19, 1998; Page B01

    A congressional proposal to strip Mayor Marion Barry of his remaining power over the D.C. police department received cautious support yesterday from Camille C. Barnett, the city's top management official, and remains under "active consideration" by Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.).

    Officials with the D.C. financial control board have told Faircloth that potential top candidates to fill the vacant post of police chief have declined to apply because of uncertainty over who is ultimately in charge and because Barry continues to have influence in running the department.

    With a number of candidates for the chief's job arriving in Washington for interviews today, control board Vice Chairman Stephen D. Harlan acknowledged the difficulty of the search but said there were strong candidates for the post.

    "I think a couple of good ones were scared off, but I think we have some excellent candidates," he said.

    The five finalists who will be interviewed today, sources said, are Interim D.C. Police Chief Sonya T. Proctor, Detroit Executive Deputy Police Chief Benny Napoleon, San Jose Police Chief Louis Cobarruviaz, Chicago Deputy Police Superintendent Charles Ramsey and Oakland Police Chief Joseph Samuels. New Orleans Police Chief Richard Pennington is also in the running, sources said.

    Although Barry has the legal right to appoint the new chief, he has pledged to choose a consensus candidate.

    Faircloth, who is reviewing whether to transfer authority over the police to the financial control board, said a confusing oversight structure for the police department has undermined public safety and is "extremely detrimental."

    In response to a question from Faircloth, Barnett, who runs nine major city agencies but lacks authority over police, suggested that she and the control board could oversee the police department as well.

    "We do need to look at clarifying the lines of authority in the police department," Barnett said during a congressional hearing. "I do hope we will be able to bring this government back together."

    Asked later whether the police chief should report to her and the control board -- rather than to Barry -- Barnett said, "That or something like that needs to happen."

    Under the law and agreements reached among city officials, the police chief reports to Barry with the consultation of the "memorandum of understanding" partners, a group that includes public safety officials, control board members and elected officials. Under pressure from the control board, Barry last year delegated his authority over police promotions and other internal matters to the office of the chief of police.

    Faircloth, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District, played the key role last summer in stripping Barry of power over most of city government but not the police department.

    David Landers, Faircloth's legislative counsel, said after the hearing that a proposal to transfer Barry's remaining power over the police department to the presidentially appointed control board remains under "active consideration."

    Faircloth said the current arrangement creates ambiguity, and he expressed concern that too many police officers remain behind desks rather than out on the streets protecting city residents.

    "The police department is being run by a committee, which is no way to run a police department," he said. "Crime is still far too high. . . . The police force has a deplorable record when it comes to catching killers."

    Control board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer said the board has not endorsed any changes in the oversight structure for the police department and emphasized that Barnett's comments did not reflect board policy. "Camille is an employee of the control board, and Camille has an operating role, not a policymaking role," Brimmer said.

    Brimmer said the control board has all the power it needs to ensure that the best applicant is chosen for the job.

    "I assure you that any chief who allows his or her name to go forward as a serious candidate for this position will understand the lines of authority and to whom that chief is ultimately accountable," Brimmer said. "I believe Faircloth knows we are the locus of authority right now."

    Today's interviews for the chief's job will be conducted by members of the memorandum of understanding group, including Barry and Barnett. The applicants are expected to tour D.C. neighborhoods with city officials.

    Napoleon, 42, is the second in command in the Detroit Police Department. A 23-year member of the force who has a law degree, Napoleon is in charge of homicide, major crimes, mounted police, narcotics, aviation and 13 precincts.

    Ramsey, 47, is a 26-year member of the Chicago Police Department and deputy superintendent of staff services. He oversees community policing. He is credited with improving communications between police administrators and rank-and-file officers. Ramsey, a Chicago native, was the front-runner last month for the superintendent's job, which eventually went to the chief of detectives.

    Samuels, 48, is described as a chief who relies heavily on community input. After 17 years on the Oakland force, he left to become chief of the Fresno, Calif., police department, returning to Oakland as chief in 1993. Samuels worked with Chips Stewart, a member of the Booz-Allen & Hamilton consulting firm that is conducting a review of the D.C. police department.

    Cobarruviaz, 59, has spent more than three decades on the San Jose police force -- the last seven as chief -- and plans to retire tomorrow. He became the department's first Hispanic chief and works with troubled Hispanic youths. He also implemented community policing.

    Proctor, 43, was named D.C. interim police chief in November when Larry D. Soulsby abruptly retired amid reports that he shared a luxury apartment with a lieutenant at a deeply discounted rate. The lieutenant, Jeffery S. Stowe, was later indicted on charges of extortion, embezzlement and wire fraud.

    Although Pennington has not formally applied, he has discussed the job with several District officials, sources said. Pennington is a former D.C. assistant chief who left the department in 1994 to take over the New Orleans force.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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