Cmdr. Ross E. Swope, a 26-year veteran of the D.C. police department, will depart at the end of this month for Cambridge University in England, where he will study how police departments can improve the quality of life for city residents and reduce the fear of crime.
In April, Swope became the first D.C. police officer to win a United Kingdom Fulbright Fellowship in Police Studies, according to Karen C. Adams, senior program officer at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers Fulbright fellowships for faculty and professionals. The prestigious scholarships also are awarded annually to American and foreign graduate students.
Swope, who grew up in New Carrollton and attended the University of Maryland, was commander of the homicide division in 1998 until Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey decentralized the division and moved the detectives to the city's seven patrol districts. In 1997, Swope oversaw a $300,000 federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant that provided added police protection to the blighted Montana Terrace housing development in Northeast.
Swope, 49, said he plans to spend 3 1/2 months at Cambridge's Institute of Criminology. Despite an education that includes two master's degrees--one from Johns Hopkins University in applied behavioral science and one from American University in criminal justice--Swope said he retains the street-level perspective of the patrol officer he was when he joined the department.
"I'm out there--that's what I do," Swope said. "I've been in line jobs my whole career and my education is just a peripheral part of what I do every day."
Swope works two midnight shifts a week in the Operations Command, which provides a high-level police presence during emergencies. Tuesday morning, he directed police efforts in cordoning off the area near the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 14th Street NW after a 4 a.m. bomb scare.
Jerry Wilson was police chief and Walter E. Washington was the District's appointed mayor when Swope joined the police force in 1973. Since then, American police departments have moved away from an exclusive focus on crime to an approach that includes community policing. Swope cited, for example, the "broken windows" theory, which holds that visible signs of disarray in a neighborhood contribute to greater criminal activity there; the theory has been influential since the 1980s.
Swope's career reflects the police department's move to include perspectives drawn from academic disciplines. "We need to really develop an atmosphere where ideas can be nurtured and exchanged," said Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "You do that by moving in other circles."
Swope teaches "Policing in America" and "Critical Issues in American Policing" as an adjunct professor at American University, and has written several articles for police journals and academic reviews.
"When I write something and I give this theoretical concept, I'm able to give actual practical examples of how this works," he said.
Each year, the fellowship in police studies sends two working police officers each from the United States and from the United Kingdom to study criminology or criminal justice in the other country. The program was launched in 1990. Cmdr. Alan Chertok, of Prince George's County, who now is with the police in Newport News, Va., received the fellowship in 1995-96, Adams said.
Ramsey and Gainer encouraged police officials to apply for the fellowship, and each wrote a letter of recommendation on Swope's behalf.
Swope's application was among 25 reviewed first by a panel in Washington and then by a Fulbright Commission in Britain, Adams said. The other winner this year is Sgt. Ernest G. Vendrell, of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Swope's research at Cambridge will permit field visits and direct observation of local police initiatives in England, he said. The department is subsidizing part of Swope's trip, Gainer said. Swope said he will return to his District post in December.