A year after a special D.C. Council committee investigating wrongdoing in the city police department found dozens of instances of misconduct and gross mismanagement, reform efforts aren't moving as quickly as they should, according to the two D.C. Council members who chaired the committee.
Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) said they want Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis, Inspector General Charles C. Maddox and D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton to describe the specific steps they have taken to clean up the 3,500-member force.
"I'm disappointed after a year that many of the recommendations to the U.S. attorney, the courts and the [department] have yet to be implemented," Evans said yesterday in an interview. "If the city's ever going to function, people are going to have to take this stuff seriously."
The investigation, which cost more than $400,000, was headed by special counsel Mark H. Tuohey and was launched by the council in December 1997 after allegations of mismanagement and misconduct. The committee issued 150 subpoenas, interviewed 175 witnesses and held six public hearings. The probe uncovered more than 60 instances of alleged misconduct in the police department, including theft of equipment, falsified applications, diversion of funds and abuse of power. Those cases were turned over to Lewis's office, the inspector general or the police department's Office of Professional Responsibility.
"I don't think we're where we need to be," Patterson said yesterday. "One year later, this report shouldn't just be on a shelf."
According to a Sept. 23 letter from Maddox to the committee, which was obtained by The Washington Post, three of the 65 cases were referred to his office. They involved diversion of police money, theft of police property and violations of off-duty regulations and conflict of interest.
Two cases were closed after Maddox's office failed to substantiate the allegations, the letter said. The third case involved a former commander who acted as a police "broker" for off-duty employment opportunities by handpicking and scheduling officers and collecting a fee from them, which is a clear violation of department regulations. The U.S. attorney's office declined to prosecute the commander, who retired last year.
Recommendations from the committee included prohibiting "brokering" and not allowing officers under disciplinary investigation to avoid punishment. Other recommendations included revising police rules and regulations, prohibiting off-duty employment in establishments that serve alcohol and fully staffing the 83 patrol service areas.
Patterson and Evans said they have had difficulty getting progress reports from all the parties involved, so they scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today at One Judiciary Square to give officials an opportunity to outline their reform efforts publicly. However, Hamilton said he won't be there. Lewis is out of town. Maddox wrote in the letter that it would be inappropriate for him to show up "at any forum where I might be called upon to discuss ongoing . . . investigations." He did not return a telephone call.
Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday that the department has been diligent in its reform attempts. Ramsey will attend today's news conference.
"I think we feel real comfortable that we're on the right track," Gainer said. "I think sometimes Chief Ramsey and I are frustrated that things don't move as quickly as we would like them, but it takes time to set up new procedures and implement new policies."
The U.S. attorney's office was asked to adopt an "on-call system" for officers' court appearances and to continue strict adherence to the court overtime procedure.
Thomas Motley, principal assistant U.S. attorney, acknowledged that the on-call system has not been adopted but said the issue has been turned over to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee for review. The committee includes Ramsey, Lewis and other District leaders.
The U.S. attorney's office also was responsible for ensuring that officers don't manipulate the overtime system. The investigation found dozens of homicide detectives and vice officers abused the overtime pay system by getting prosecutors to put them on a list to receive court overtime for investigations even though they had virtually no role in the probes. Several of the officers doubled or even tripled their salaries.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said Lewis has suggested the coordinating committee examine other jurisdictions' policies to determine how they deal with overtime abuse.
"This is a complex issue that involves input from a number of parties," Phillips said. "It's not being done overnight."