Tio had fallen off the wagon and landed on the second floor hallway, where Police Officer Bonnie O'Neal found him asleep and curled around an empty carton of beer. No stranger to Tio or this dilapidated building in the District's Mount Pleasant area, O'Neal pulled out her long nightstick and poked the man in the ribs.
"Tio! Tio! Levante," she said, using her 320 hours of lessons in conversational Spanish for law enforcement, a useful if sometimes ungrammatical weapon in this multilingual community. "Policia, por favor. Es no bien para usted aqui."
"Come on! Por favor, levante, Tio!"
Finally, the man obeyed her command and sat up, dazed. There was a deep gash on his left hand. O'Neal radioed for an ambulance and then, after checking the building for other vagrants, came back and helped the man outside.
"He's been off the sauce for weeks," O'Neal said of Tio, a familiar figure in the neighborhood. "I don't know what got him back on."
It's been a year since the police department gave Mount Pleasant to this 20-year veteran, turned over its 43 crime-prone blocks, its drunks and its derelicts, its dilapidated buildings, its tony six-figure town houses and its 15,000 angry residents, and said: "Fix it."
To a great degree, she did. Crime dropped. Gone are the nightly boxing matches in front of the 7-Eleven. There are fewer street-corner drunks, drug-dealers, car-stripping hoods.
Most important, and again at the urging of O'Neal, the number of neighborhood groups has grown from 12 to 42. That has given the area "15,000 pairs of eyes," O'Neal said, and helped stop a spiral of violence that peaked with three execution-style slayings in July 1989.
"We certainly haven't had as much crime," said Rodney Case, the executive director of the Mount Pleasant Business Association, which has pegged the neighborhood's long-awaited revival to O'Neal's work. "Without Bonnie, we certainly wouldn't even attempt it," he said. "Her presence here . . . does set aside a lot of questions and a lot of doubts that other people may have."
Top D.C. police officials point to O'Neal as a vanguard in a coming wave of "community-oriented" officers, who try to stave off crime by sinking roots into a neighborhood, getting to know the merchants and the muggers.
But last week, with two months to go before retirement, O'Neal's superiors pulled her from the Mount Plesant Community Policing Program and assigned her to regular patrols at the 4th District.
The reasons are disputed, but one apparently was the one-year progress report on the program that she gave her superiors. In it, O'Neal says the special patrol's cost is $88,323, including transportation and salaries for her and an assistant. By her accounting, the department owes her $40,638 -- including 960 hours of overtime, and $5,000 in depreciation on her vehicle.
O'Neal said she never expected to be reimbursed for the entire amount, and submitted the sum only to tally the program's real costs. But 4th District commanders, stunned by the figure and upset because they were unaware of the mounting overtime, limited her to patrol duty and assigned other officers to Mount Pleasant.
Despite the dispute, O'Neal's work illustrates how effective community policing can be, a fact not lost on a department eager to forge bonds with residents.
O'Neal's statistics -- based on police reports for the neighborhood -- show a dramatic drop in crime. In July 1989, the month before the program began, there were 21 robberies, assaults, burglaries and other crimes, and this past July, there were 14. In the first week of this July, there were only eight reported crimes, almost 40 percent fewer than a year earlier.
No one, least of all O'Neal, says Mount Pleasant is rid of problems. But community activists and business leaders say she's partly responsible for closing the open-air drug market at Mount Pleasant and Irving streets NW, one of the first tasks O'Neal set for herself. She did it by hanging out on the corner -- bulletproof vest on and shotgun at her side -- until the dealers moved on.
She spent hours patrolling the neighborhood's labyrinthine alleys, where burglars feasted on unsecured garages, and badgered residents until they learned to lock everything down. (Her dictum: "You can't see it, you can't steal it. You can't get to it, you can't steal it.") In the process, she won over an area that had grown increasingly skeptical of police.
"I think she is an extraordinary person, and that is widely held," said Gregg Edwards, head of the 1600 Lamont Street Association. "She is motivated to actually make an impact rather than just serve time. And, as a result, and this is the bottom line, people feel safer."
Edwin Somarriba, a Nicaraguan immigrant who heads the 3000 16th Street Association, said that when troublemakers see O'Neal coming, "they get their act together. They have learned to respect her as a person."
Slightly taller than 5 feet 9 inches and just shy of 170 pounds, the 47-year-old officer has successfully faced some difficult choices, private and professional. In 1978, O'Neal left the department and underwent a "gender reassignment," the preferred term among those who change their sex.
The former Ormus W. Davenport III -- a father of three whose wife died of cancer in 1973 -- rejoined the department in 1979 and went to work as a community officer in the 4th District. She has kept in close contact with her children -- all of whom are in their early twenties -- and five years ago married a former District firefighter.
O'Neal and her partner, Officer Lesmes Richard Boyenger, reported to the 4th District command but set their own schedules and priorities. A spate of car break-ins on Tuesdays -- a pattern uncovered because the team compiles weekly statistics -- found O'Neil riding around at 4 a.m. to see who was on the streets at that time.
The two officers, armed with a video camera, skulked around alleys and filmed open garage doors and other advertisements to thieves; the film is shown to community groups. O'Neal also has reached out to other ethnic groups, producing programs for Korean merchants in Korean and for Hispanic merchants in Spanish.
The patrol methods are based on a plan for community-oriented policing that Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. has been working on for months and is expected to announce soon.
What will emerge in Mount Pleasant, now that O'Neal is gone, is still unclear. Police officials said Boyenger will remain on patrol, and it is likely a sergeant and other police officers will be added. Last week, Ken Fealing, chairman of the Mount Pleasant Advisory Neighborhood Commission, met with police brass and was assured that the program remains viable.
For O'Neal, the developments last week were a profound disappointment. She left her tour Friday afternoon and, because of accumulated leave time, probably will not patrol again. She will retire Oct. 14.
"I felt, after all that took place, it was best to be out of sight," she said. "Let the community stand on its own. If I've done my job, they should be able to do it."