The dedicated police officers in the Fraternal Order of Police believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia deserve the best police protection and services that their government can provide. Police officers have a unique responsibility for the lives of their fellow citizens, and they are given a great deal of authority over them. It can truly be said that to a great extent the quality of life in our city is a reflection of the quality of our police department.
The challenges faced by police officers today are more difficult than at any time in recent history. To meet these challenges, citizens must demand the best of their police officers. But you can only demand and expect the best if you hire the best applicants and retain the best officers. Obviously this cannot be done by continuing to lower entrance standards for police officers and by reducing the resources available to fight crime -- while paying lip service to a "13-point" crime program.
The lottery system for hiring police officers announced by Mayor Marion Barry last week is a clear indication of the conflict between his public position of fighting crime and his actions -- which can only result in reducing the level of police protection for the citizens of the District.
There is no need to lower the standards for police officers in the District. We in the Fraternal Order of Police are convinced, unlike the mayor, that there are many highly qualified people in the District and surrounding areas. However, these qualified potential applicants are attracted to other federal and local law enforcement positions that offer compensation and benefits commensurate with their abilities. The city will not attract qualified people of any race by lowering the standards. The mayor's lottery is an admission that the District of Columbia is no longer going to compete for the caliber of people critical to effective crime-fighting.
The mayor argues that, no matter how low the standards of the test, police recruits will still have to prove themselves at the police academy. This is an empty argument.
The academy no longer has a strict regimen of pass/fail. In fact, tests at the academy can be[TEXT ILLEGIBLE] as needed to take and retake tests until a passing grade has been achieved. This system obviously lends itself to manipulation by the mayor and certainly does not guarantee the best personnel for the police department.
In the late 1960s, Washington was in a similar position. Crime was on the rise and the police seemed unable to cope. The first step taken in response to rising crime rates was a giant recruiting effort for more police officers.
It quickly became clear, however, that it was impossible to fill the new positions because the District was not offering adequate pay and benefits to attract quality applicants. Pay and benefits were increased to competitive levels, and highly qualified people began applying.
Soon the large number of competent new police officers began reducing crime and Washington was made safer than almost every other city of comparable size in the United States. This is history and a matter of public record.
It was this commitment of sufficient resources to attract highly qualified people to do the job that won the war on crime in the 1970s, and this type of commitment is the only answer to the present crime wave. The present officers of the Metropolitan Police Department are proud of their accomplishments. The community should expect no less from new police recruits.
Mayor Barry has paid lip service to crime reduction while placing his priorities elsewhere. Ultimately, the taxpayers here pay the terrible price of increased crime.
Simply put, safe streets are costly, but not nearly as costly as the crime that haunts us all. The citizens of this city deserve the best police officers they can hire. They should never allow their city to do less. The answer is not to lower standards and institute a lottery but to make the Metropolitan Police Department competitive enough to attract the highly qualified applicants who live in the city and the surrounding area.
A lottery is a gamble -- your life and safety are too important to gamble with. Vote no to the mayor's police lottery!