The High Cost of the Use of Force

Pr. George's Paid $7.9 Million in Police Suits Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who campaigned on a promise to reform the county police force, disclosed Thursday that Prince George's has paid $7.9 million in jury awards and out-of-court settlements since July 2000 in lawsuits alleging excessive force and other misconduct by police officers.

In making the announcement, Johnson went beyond the requirements of a new Maryland law that forces Prince George's to disclose each year's total cost of out-of-court settlements in police misconduct cases. Johnson released the total cost for a 2 1/2-year period and included the cost of jury awards. "I do not believe the [new] law went far enough," he said in a statement.

A Rise in Homicides

Sniper Killings Contribute to 12% Increase Nearly 500 people were killed in homicides in the Washington area in 2002, a 12 percent increase over the previous year's total. Most of the killings continued to take place in the urban areas of the District and Prince George's County. But in Fairfax County, the number went from 12 in 2001 to 20 in 2002, police said.

The higher numbers mirror a national trend in growing numbers of homicides.

The sniper killings accounted for 10 of the deaths in the Washington area.

A Victory for Malvo

Judge Lets Defense See Statements A Fairfax County judge ruled that prosecutors must provide John Lee Malvo's defense team with copies of the statements the teenage sniper suspect made to police about the shootings in Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Malvo's attorneys said the order by Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Kimberly J. Daniel was an important victory as they prepare for a Jan. 14 hearing to determine whether Malvo's case should be transferred to adult court. There, the 17-year-old could face the death penalty if convicted.

Daniel ruled that Malvo's attorneys are entitled to some but not all of the conversations their client had with authorities because of the "complexity and severity" of the case.

Taxing Property Sales for Schools

Howard Looks for Construction Funds Searching for ways to come up with more money for much-needed school construction, Howard County officials are prepared to ask the state legislature to increase the county's real estate transfer tax.

The tax is imposed every time a property is sold. According to a draft proposal, County Executive James N. Robey (D) wants to raise the tax half a percentage point, to 1.5 percent, to generate an additional $10 million a year.

Across the Region

Clinic Problems; Library Overdue

* Mental health clinics are struggling to stay afloat in Southern Maryland, even as the demand for their services increases. Trico Corp., a fixture of stability during its 15 years of operating clinics in Hollywood, Waldorf and Bowie, is the latest mental health provider to be threatened by discouraging financial prospects.

* Montgomery County library lovers got some bad news when they learned that the popular Bethesda branch, closed for a year for renovations, will not reopen until September, even though work will be completed by April. County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said budget problems will prevent staffing the building until the fall.

* A struggle over the leadership of the Historic Annapolis Foundation ended abruptly when the organization's chief executive, who had tried to move the prominent nonprofit in the direction of museum-like programs, resigned and was replaced with a president who vowed to bring the organization back to its roots in historic preservation.

Plea from the bench: One of a series of benches by Takoma Park artist Bodil Meleny with words from area poets sits at a stop for Bethesda's free trolley service.