D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey defended his department yesterday against charges that reform efforts are not moving quickly enough.
At a news conference, Ramsey outlined reforms he has implemented since a special D.C. Council committee investigation last year found dozens of instances of police misconduct and mismanagement.
"We took the report very seriously," Ramsey said. "It helped me get a better understanding of the issues."
The $400,000 taxpayer-funded investigation began in December 1997 after several police officers complained during a public hearing about the treatment they received from officers and police administrators after they blew the whistle on alleged misconduct. D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), chairmen of the committee, hired special counsel Mark H. Tuohey to head the investigation.
The examination uncovered 65 instances of misconduct and mismanagement, and the committee made 46 recommendations to the police department, the U.S. attorney's office, D.C. Superior Court and the office of the inspector general.
The recommendations included prohibiting officers from working off duty in establishments that sell alcohol; overhauling the operating procedures for internal investigations of police misconduct; developing and implementing a performance appraisal system; and ensuring that officers receive the necessary firearms training.
Evans and Patterson said they wanted Ramsey, U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis, Inspector General Charles C. Maddox and D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Eugene N. Hamilton to describe specific steps taken to clean up the 3,500-member force. The council members said they called the news conference because they have had difficulty getting progress reports from all the parties involved. Ramsey was the only administrator to appear yesterday.
Ramsey said he has put in place a performance evaluation system, launched a 40-hour-a-year mandatory in-service training for all sworn personnel and ordered all officers to requalify twice a year to use their weapons. The department had been the only law enforcement agency in the country without required in-service training programs.
"We literally reinvented training," the chief said.
A recommendation to adopt an "on-call" system for officers' court appearances was sent to the police department, the U.S. attorney's office and D.C. Superior Court but has not been implemented. Ramsey said he is concerned about hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime officers earn each year waiting in court to testify at trials. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which is headed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and includes Ramsey and other District leaders, is reviewing the issue.
Lewis, the U.S. attorney, who was out of the country yesterday, said in a written statement she is dedicated to working vigorously to investigate and prosecute "officers who violate our criminal law." Nineteen police officers have been convicted of criminal offenses in the District since January 1998, she said. Three more are awaiting trial.
Evans said yesterday he was pleased that officials are taking the recommendations seriously.
"It's more progress than has been made in any previous reports," he said. "We will be diligent in our oversight. That's our challenge: to hold everyone's feet to the fire."
CAPTION: Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey answers a question on reforming his department. With him are D.C. Council members Jack Evans and Kathy Patterson.