Washington does not need any more police! The more than 60 open-air drug markets referred to in The Post's Feb. 20 editorial have grown up in the face of the all-out war of Operation Clean Sweep, which has used force, violence and deception by hundreds of police officers.
In part because of reckless indifference to fiscal concerns by officials of the U.S. attorney's office, the Metropolitan Police Department and the judiciary, a substantial portion of the $16.4 million in overtime for D.C. officers has paid for officers' needlessly waiting in the D.C. Superior Court to file cases or testify in trials, which are often postponed as a result of the enormous overload of cases amassed through Operation Clean Sweep.
The failure of the homicide division to solve the growing number of murders stems more from the misapplication of manpower, time and investigative ability by the police department, through its constant involvement in staging crimes through operations such as Clean Sweep, than from lack of personnel.
In addition to the "drug wars," the rise in street violence has been substantially contributed to by the reckless and wanton tactics of some of the police, who frequently abuse and denigrate the people they are hired to serve and protect. The "jump-out squads" are feared and hated by as many law-abiding citizens as criminals. Young people receive the impression that abuse, violence and foul language are the norm for government representatives.
If the District wants to solve its drug problem, it must commit its resources, both public and private, to education and rehabilitation of drug users and addicts. The city should begin a comprehensive program to instruct, through advertising and public addresses, as to the health and economic hazards of drug abuse. It should hire more, and better qualified, probation officers and drug rehabilitation counselors -- those who have the desire and ability to help people to recover while on probation and to get jobs or job training. It must adequately fund drug treatment programs and facilities and end the five- to six-month waiting period now required for addicts who want treatment. And it should initiate and fund more treatment facilities and vocational rehabilitation programs.
As long as there is a demand for drugs, the impoverished young people of our community will likely be lured into drug selling by the profits offered by the pushers, regardless of how long the mandatory minimum sentence is or of how many police are on the street. As long as people are addicted to drugs and ignorant of their harmful effects, no amount of police force will reduce the demand. We must adopt a realistic and honest drug policy and stop the useless violence in the streets. JOANNE RONEY HEPWORTH Washington The writer is a criminal defense lawyer.