Several law enforcement officials, community leaders, politicians and political candidates reacted skeptically yesterday to Mayor Marion Barry's suggestion Wednesday that he would invoke a curfew and call in the D.C. National Guard to quell violence in the city.
Barry gave few details of what he is considering, but said that if he invokes a curfew it most likely would be from midnight to 6 a.m. in public housing complexes hit hard by violence. Barry also said that if the Guard were summoned, troops might be used to pull over cars at roadblocks and to search for guns.
"Anyone who talks about this being some kind of police state is probably not affected by the violence," Barry said during a campaign stop at a senior citizens center in Southeast. "But out here on Alabama Avenue, people are pleading for more protection. They don't want to get hit by any stray bullets."
Barry, who previously had derided the idea of using the National Guard here, announced during a campaign appearance Wednesday that he is considering implementing the two anti-crime initiatives if other police efforts are not successful in bringing down the city's homicide rate in a month.
"I am a little astounded at his call," said D.C. Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee. "It's not only a police state mentality. I don't think the mayor could be serious."
Barry met yesterday with Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. and said afterward that the two men are "in tune" on Barry's ideas.
A police source said that Fulwood was unaware Barry planned to make a proposal on curfews and the Guard.
Fulwood said yesterday that he is opposed to a mobilization of the Guard.
Fulwood said that although the Guard has helped police with major demonstrations and traffic control, he "can't see them doing general police work."
"We couldn't keep them long enough . . . . We would have to train them in the law enforcement area," he said. "I cannot say that a full mobilization of the National Guard is a good idea, nor do I know that it will work."
Fulwood previously has expressed opposition to curfews.
Leaders of the police union and a black police group attacked Barry's proposals, as did former police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., now the Republican candidate for mayor, and his Democratic opponent, Sharon Pratt Dixon.
"It raises hypocrisy to entirely unheard-of levels," said Gary Hankins, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police labor committee, who said more police officers should be added instead. Lowell Duckett, head of the Black Police Caucus, said, "I think the mayor has lost his mind."
"What can we expect when government has been complicit in creating the atmosphere of lawlessness that now prevails?" Dixon said.
Some people said they thought the announcement by Barry, a candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council, might have been politically inspired.
Others questioned the feasibility and legality of the proposals, noting that the city previously has been defeated twice in court on the issue of a curfew and that it would be difficult for the mayor to meet the standards required for calling in the Guard.
Barry flatly rejected any criticism of his curfew and Guard proposals yesterday, saying he was certain that "those who disagree live in nice, safe, comfortable neighborhoods."
"Anyone who opposes this ought to move into one of these war zones for about four or five weeks," the mayor said. "I bet they would come out with a different view. And I suspect that if any of their sons or daughters had been killed as viciously as some of these people are being killed, they might have a different view."
Barry's announcement Wednesday followed a weekend of violence that left nine dead, including three men killed execution-style.
Even if Barry decides to call the Guard to perform police functions, officials said yesterday, troops would not be sent automatically. Barry first would have to declare a state of emergency and then request assistance from President Bush.
The Justice Department also would review the request.
"It would have to be such a grave emergency that the city would have to say it cannot perform its mission," said D.C. Guard spokesman Harry M. Dorsey, who said he believed the situation in the District has not reached that point.
Dorsey said the Guard has been used as a police force only on rare occasions, such as riots. Dorsey said the Guard is assisting the District by providing helicopters for drug surveillance and helping board up abandoned crack houses.
One of the few public statements in support of Barry's Guard idea came from D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who unsuccessfully asked Barry to call up the Guard in 1988.
He said yesterday that he continues to feel the District is in need of supplemental help. "People are living in fear behind their doors," he said.
Others said imposing a curfew or calling the Guard would be effective only if the public clearly indicated its support.
"A curfew and the National Guard is effective only if the community wants them," said former U.S. attorney Joseph E. diGenova, who was the city's top prosecutor when several intensified police operations went into effect. "If this is a serious proposal, I haven't seen the groundswell for it."Staff writers Rene Sanchez, Carlos Sanchez, R.H. Melton and Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.