Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey placed two administrators on leave yesterday as D.C. police and the Department of Motor Vehicles began inspecting hundreds of marked and unmarked vehicles with outdated inspection stickers.
Tom Burse, the police department's business services director, and Robert Rose, the department's fleet services manager, were placed on leave with pay until the Internal Affairs Division completes its investigation into why police vehicles were allowed to go unregistered and uninspected, and why hundreds of tickets officers amassed were left unpaid.
At least one of the vehicles with an expired inspection sticker is assigned to Internal Affairs.
A third police department official, Eric Coard, executive director for corporate support, who oversees Burse and Rose, received an "oral admonishment," Ramsey said.
Inspections began last night at the DMV station in Southwest Washington and are scheduled to run from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night until all the vehicles are in compliance, according to DMV Director Sherryl Newman.
Fifty vehicles are expected to go through inspection each night. DMV employees will be paid overtime to conduct the inspections.
"We're going to work through the night to do police vehicles," Newman said.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that police officers are driving hundreds of department cars, vans and motorcycles that are unregistered and have expired inspection stickers, which violates District law.
At least 173 of the department's 483 unmarked vehicles are unregistered, including 70 assigned to the seven police districts.
Hundreds of other unmarked and marked patrol cars have outdated inspection stickers or lack them entirely, including 200 new vehicles that arrived last month. New vehicles should be inspected within 20 days, Newman said.
Many of the cars haven't been registered or inspected because officers have outstanding parking tickets.
About 600 tickets accumulated by officers remain unpaid, according to Burse. The tickets range from $15 to $100, with some dating back "three or four years," he said.
The unpaid tickets, which should have been paid no later than 15 days after issuance, are costing the city thousands of dollars.
Newman said she has no idea how much police officers and the department owe in outstanding tickets, though police officials estimate that it's at least $40,000.
Tickets must be paid within 15 days, or the fines double. DMV prohibits the registration or inspection of cars with outstanding tickets.
However, Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday that DMV officials have agreed to register all vehicles while the department sorts through the tickets to determine which officers received them and failed to pay.
"We inherited a whole group of tickets, and some of them are years old," Gainer said. "It may not be cost-effective to go back and find out who got the tickets."
Gainer acknowledged that it's going to be difficult to figure out to whom the tickets were issued because the department has no tracking system in place. Although officers are required to fill out a form when they receive a ticket, they often don't, he said.
"Policies were in place, but they weren't being followed," Gainer said. "We need to have better procedures."
Tickets given to officers on duty likely will be dismissed, Newman said.
Nevertheless, Ramsey said the entire situation is embarrassing.
"It's just one more breakdown in the process," the chief said. "It's unacceptable."
Ramsey said he was surprised to learn about the uninspected and unregistered vehicles.
"I didn't realize it," Ramsey said. "I just presumed our cars were registered. I rely on people in the units to take care of that. I'm not real happy."
Ramsey vowed that similar situations will not happen again on his watch.
"Every vehicle in [the department] will be registered and properly inspected every year like clockwork," he said. "Period.
"And from this point on, people are going to be responsible for their tickets."