Officials of the union representing Washington police officers are displeased that overtime pay was used to remodel offices of high-ranking police officials while officers at a Capitol Hill substation work in a building they say is "a shambles."
The officers at the lst district substation at 500 E St. SE, have to wade through standing water in their locker room and avoid droppings from pigeons roosting overhead during roll call, according to the union.
"They talk about improving morale down at headquarters. Well, let's spread some of that morale around in the field. Let's go out and fix up the substation," said Larry Simons, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers local.
Police officials say they are concerned about the morale of all officers and have tried for years to replace the 74-year-old substation with new facilities but could not get the money from the City Council. Besides, they said, conditions at the substation are not that bad.
"I think someone is exaggerating a little to pique your interest," Gary Hankins, a department spokesman, told a reporter.
The issue has created a pointed confrontation between the union and the department, with each anxious to project an image of concern toward the rank and file.
The union officials were reacting to a newspaper story earlier this week reporting that thousands of dollars in overtime had been paid to police department employes to repaint, panel with wood and wax the floors of the offices of police officials ranging in rank from inspector to chief.
The inspector who approved the overtime, Roland W. Perry, head of the financial management branch, said he did it to improve employe morale.
"The people in those offices work straight day work and get weekends off," said Larry Melton, vice president of the union. "They don't have to go out and put up with guff from people in the street. They shouldn't have any morale problem."
The lst District substation, formerly No. 5 precinct, was built in 1904, and from the outside, looks essentially the same today. The inside more clearly shows the wear.
Cellings have holes, light bulbs are bare and paint peels from walls. Desks and chairs are standard metal, unlike the dark wood and vinyl furnishings in the remodeled offices downtown.
Much of the substation interior has been repainted in recent months, and many of the holes in the walls and ceilings have been patched. During a visit yesterday, there was no evidence of water in "the dungeon," as the officers refer to their lockerroom, or of pigeon droppings in the roll call room.
Nevertheless, officers there were far from satisfied. Water apears after heavy rains, they said, and pigeons still rustle around a few holes in the ceiling.
"You look up and you're liable to get a pigeon bath. Just be sure you don't have your month open," Officer B. L. Archer said.
Other officers complained about lack of heating and air conditioning, lack of supplies, lavatory facilities, and broken vending machines. They also cited several mice with regular beats in the substation. "This place stinks. It's depressing," said one female employe who asked not to be named.
Hankins, speaking for the department, said that a complaint about pigeons was received last spring and that the problem was to have been remedied last August. "We've had no complaints since then. In fact, we have yet to have a complaint that hasn't been taken care of," he said.
Several employes were asked during the visit yesterday whether they had complained to superiors. They said they had not bothered."Why should we? Nobody will listen to us anyway," said one employe sitting at a worn metal desk. "We're just the ants here. It's up to the big boys to get something done."
Hankins said that the department has proposed a new replacement facility for the substation in each of the last four fiscal years and that the City Council has scheduled such a change in the fiscal 1979 budget. Under the present schedule, he said, the new facility will be completed by November 1981.
"Because of that, we're reluctant to put any large amounts of money into it (the substation)," Hankins said. He said some refurnishing, including a new heating plant for the building, is scheduled in 1980.
Union vice president Melton toured the substation yesterday and conceded that repairs and improvements had been made since his last ivist. But he complained that "we've had to scream for years to get anything done."
Insp. Perry said the walls of his office complesx at headquarters downtown were splotched with dirt, handprints and scuff marks and had not been repainted for almost four years. Perry said he put men on overtime to repaint and clean the office, because the city takes a long time to do it and because, even at overtime rates, the department saves money compared to what the city charges for the work.
Knowledgeable city official said the charges probably are about the same.
The police department refuses to allow access to overtime records, but the mount spent on overtime for remodeling offices at police headquarters is known to be at least several thousand dollars, much of which was for installation of wood paneling in the offices of various chiefs.
The department allowed a photographer to take pictures of the substation but refused access to Perry's office, which is lined with French rosewood paneling and painted pale yellow with brown trim. Perry said that to photograph his office "would serve no useful purpose."