D.C. City Administrator Elijah Rogers has approved a change in the city's policy on vending machine revenues that would divert to the city treasury thousands of dollars that the city police department has been using for community relations.
The measure affects virtually all city agencies, but apparently only the police department has been keeping money from its snack bar vending operation rather than for-warding it to the city treasury, according to Harold T. Henson, acting director of the city's Department of General Services.
Police have used the profits from machines in police stations for community activities such as Christmas parties, field trips, cadet programs and scholarship funds, according to police officials.
"We're in the process of putting together a Christmas party for 350 children, something we've done for about 14 years," said Lt. William White III, coordinator for the 7th District community services, which serves some of the most economically depressed areas in the city. "We were planning on giving [the children] some Mister Wizard computers, something educational. If they go ahead with this proposal, it will be the last time."
Until now, each of the police department's seven districts has contracted with various coffee, soft drink, and candy distributors to stock its vending machines. The districts keep about 10 cents on each 50-cent can of soda, according to city officials, and the money goes to community fund accounts tht may hold from $500 to several thousand dollars.
In October, money-conscious city officials took note of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which requires the city to monitor funds that are derived from vending machines, according to Henson.
Rogers approved awarding a city wide vending contract to Govenment Vending Management Services, but a few weeks ago D.C. Police Chief Maurice Turner asked that his department be exempted from the procedure. Henson said yesterday that this request was being considered.
"We've never had a policy dealing with vending machines," Rogers said yesterday. "I have received the chiefs request and I'm sure we will work something out."
Fifth District Deputy Police Chief Carl Profater, whose officers use their vending machine profits to award a $750 scholarship to a high school graduate, said his men were "disappointed" that the city wanted to take the money.
"We also take kids on trips to the Redskins camp in summer and let them scrimmage with the pros," Profator said. "This improves our image in the community. Its something we just don't have the funds for otherwise."
"These funds are very important to us," Turner said in an interview yesterday. "They help us break down the hostility we encounter in the community. When you take some kids from the projects out to Annapolis on a charter fishing trip and they catch a trout or a croaker, that's something they don't forget. It's something we don't forget."