Mayor Marion Barry tried to improve his relations with the Metropolitan police department by meeting with a group of rank-and-file officers yesterday, but most of them said afterward they are still unhappy -- and, in some cases, quite angry -- with many of the mayor's policies.
"It sounded like the same old thing: Barry says he's for this and for that, but really he's not for anything. He's not for us," said Officer Willie G. Toland.
Barry spent a half hour fielding questions from about 30 officers at afternoon roll call at the 3rd District police headquarters at 16th and V streets NW.
The 3rd District includes the drug-ridden and prostitution-plaged 14th Street corridor, the part of the city where, in Toland's words, "everybody comes from all over town to do their crime."
Officers at the busy station complained that Barry has made their work more difficult. They complained that they are expected to patrol the city's roughest neighborhoods, while at the same time Barry has imposed policies that have lowered police morale and decreased their effectiveness. Moreover, they have received no pay raise this year.
In response to a question from Officer W. T. Carbone, Barry said he had no apologies for legislation he recently signed establishing a civillian review board to look into allegations of police misconduct.
Carbone told a reporter later that in his view, such civilian panels "have never worked in any other city where they've been tried." He called the idea a waste of taxpayers' money, and suggested that the panel would at least subconsciously impede an officer's willingness to work hard and imaginatively.
"All it can do is retrict the police officer more," he said. "The officer is going to do less work because he knows [whatever he does] can be judged by a review board. He's not going to have any initiative."
Some officers also questioned Barry's strong support of the city's residency law, which requires new employes to live inside the District. Others were more concered about the city's failure thur far to grant any pay increase to city workers, and discounted the mayor's response that the city doesn't have enough money for more than a 5 percent raise.
But the officers' overriding concern was what they described as a severe manpower shortage, a situation compounded by budget-imposed strictures on maintaining and replacing equipment.
Barry said the department now has 3,654 officers, far fewer than when Officer Sheila Joiner came to the force nearly six years ago. She recalls that there were then more than 4,800 officers.
"I get from 18 to 23 patrol runs every night," Joiner said. "It's gotten so that you have to beg the dispatcher to let you take a break and eat. On Saturdays, we have an average of 12 officers on duty for this whole district." s
In addition, Joiner said that her squad car -- a 1979 Chevrolet with 75,000 miles on it -- breaks down about twice a month. Other officers have the same problem, she said.
"We've got cars in the shop that we can't use," she said. "So that means you have officers walking. But the junkies can observe you when you're on foot. They see where you are, and then they just go the other way to do whatever they want to do. The junkies love to see you walk."
While Joiner was talking to a reporter, Barry approached and said that manpower and equipment shortages were "just a good excuse to hide from the real problem -- the fact that the city has a budget crisis."
Barry said the District's police force is larger per capita than that of any other major city in the country, and that the problem is not manpower but the allocation of personnel.
Barry pointed to a corner of the station where five officers were busy answering telephones, filing papers and typing. "At least two or three of those jobs could be done by civilians," he said. "Those officers should be out on the street."
Barry said his visit to the station -- and a plan to spend part of last night riding in a squad car -- were "to show my strong support of the police department."