As a former police officer who retired in May after 20 years with the Metropolitan Police, I read with considerable interest -- and some amazement -- "D.C. Police: Trim the Fat," by James J. Fyfe and Patrick V. Murphy {op-ed, Nov. 27}. While I agree that the department is in dire need of revamping, I am surprised at the number of assertions that, in my experience, are at best misleading and at worst patently untrue. To wit:

1. To include in per capita figures the 5,000 federal and regional police officers connected with other departments is highly misleading. Each of these departments has clearly defined jurisdictions that in no way overlap with city police and enforcement of the D.C. Code. A uniformed member of the Secret Service can make arrests that are solely related to his assignment. If, for example, he is posted to an embassy and observes a robbery across the street, he can only call it in to the Metropolitan Police -- he is not to leave his post under any circumstances. Park Police have jurisdiction only on property owned by the Park Service. By law, any homicide must be investigated by the D.C. police regardless of where it happens. So while there may be 5,000 other police officers in the city, they are not directly involved in the day-to-day policing of the city at large. Mr. Murphy, as a former chief of police here, should have been aware of this.

2. High overtime expenses are related mostly to court appearances and not to the number of officers in the department. Chances are, the detective who earned $115,000 spent a considerable chunk of his off hours in court. Should he not have been compensated? I estimate that during my 20 years, probably 70 percent of the overtime I earned was for court appearances. (And lest one think that the D.C. police are getting rich on all this overtime, consider the following: After 20 years of service, my base salary was still less than $40,000.) As to "no effective system for monitoring overtime or for allowing field commanders to distribute it in a way that bears any relation to operational needs," under the current regulations, there is no authorized overtime for police officers except for court appearances -- which, of course, cannot be "distributed" by any official -- and for special details such as a KKK march or presidential inauguration. An operation such as Clean Sweep has to be approved -- and have money appropriated for it -- by Congress. I do not know what, or how, overtime could be allotted by officials in a manner different from what is now assigned for special details.

3. The contractual provision that prohibits changing officers' assignments -- their days off -- without 28 days' notice except in emergencies is a relatively new one, enacted only within the past several years as a result of a formal grievance filed by the Fraternal Order of Police. Officers who had had leave approved and had on that basis made vacation plans were losing hundreds of dollars in deposits when the leaves were rescinded with little notice. I fail to see how this provision leads to "massive overtime" in any situation. The practical effect is to allow the department to not pay overtime to officers who wind up working on what were to have been their days off. As a matter of fact, when I was in charge of scout-car assignments for the Third District, the rule left me short-staffed on more than one occasion. There is no corollary allowingofficers to waive the notification and collect overtime. And note also that if officers wind up working extra hours because of short-staffing, they still receive only comp time, not overtime.

4. Fyfe and Murphy conveniently overlook the fact that an officer is never paid overtime for the first court appearance on a case, even if it is not during his scheduled shift. Nor can he collect for the "2.7 hours" ascribed to the booking procedure. Thus, "collars for dollars" (an expression I never heard in 20 years) is a misnomer. The officer on the 3-to-11 shift who makes a late-night lockup will receive comp time if booking goes past check-off time, and he will also get comp time the next day -- up until 2:30, when the shift begins again at roll call -- when he goes to court to paper the case, but he will not collect any overtime even if he sits there from 7:30 a.m. on.

For that matter, I think a lot of the time spent in court can be traced directly to the court system itself. Most cops will tell you they spend an inordinate amount of time locking up the same people they have locked up before or locking up criminals with long histories. Get these people off the streets and keep them off, and the cops will spend less time in court.

It is also noteworthy that there was, for a time, a night court in operation. But it was discontinued because the U.S. attorneys did not want to work nights.

5. I do not know what Fyfe and Murphy are referring to when they say the department "reassigns arresting officers from patrol to the prosecutor's office while the cases are pending before grand juries." I never once received any such "assignment." Arresting officers are subpoenaed to appear at each step of the judicial process in order to testify, and they must go to court to do the necessary paper work. As a matter of fact, if an officer does not appear when called, he or she will suffer disciplinary action, which can range from one to three days' suspension. This is not police department policy, it is the court's policy.

6. "Civilianization" is no panacea. The department already has civilians: Dispatchers who don't understand enough about police procedure to set priorities and properly assign calls. Dispatchers who argue with the cops they are supposed to be assigning -- because they don't know enough about the police district they work in to realize that the call they received actually came from the Fourth District or the Second District rather than the Third and should have been transferred. Police operations should be handled by police officers to prevent sabotage by tipsters.

7. Fyfe and Murphy bemoan the lack of training that new recruits receive. Obviously, no amount of academy training can prepare a new police officer for what he or she will actually encounter on the streets. However, it is not correct to say that the new officers receive no in-service training. All rookies are assigned to scout cars with experienced officers who are expected to provide additional training and guidance. I myself trained well over 100 such officers over the years. And during roll call the department shows in-service films and provides additional instruction.

Like Fyfe and Murphy, I too could go on. I don't think there is any question that the department has fat that could be trimmed. But in my view there is an awful lot of it at the top. The department has many highly paid officials (lieutenants and up) who never leave the station and haven't made an arrest in years, but issue orders and edicts that only reinforce the rank-and-file view that officials have no idea of what really goes on in the streets. The captains do nothing but take care of personal business all day and try to figure out where they can get a free lunch. It is at this level that the most money is going for the least amount of work. This is where the trimming should begin.

The writer retired in May after 20 years as D.C. police officer.