If you read of a crime spree by someone just sprung from Superior Court, or hear the police chief lament about court overtime or the mayor promise a "summer offensive" against crime, you aren't stuck in a time warp. Here in the District, we once again are repeating our mistakes on public safety. What's missing is accountability, and we intend to supply it.
On Oct. 6 we will deliver a public accounting of what actually has transpired as a result of the $400,000 effort of the council's Special Committee on Police Misconduct and Personnel Management, the panel we chaired and whose report was released to the public last October. We will go through our recommendations one at a time and delineate where there is progress and where there is none. We give a two-month notice of our intention because we hope our partners in public safety -- the mayor, the police chief, the courts, the U.S. Attorney, the Inspector General, the D.C. Council and its Judiciary Committee -- will have positive news to share at that time. The main issues include:
Deployment of the 3,600 sworn officers in the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
At any given time, half of these sworn officers or even fewer are on the streets. Police Chief Charles Ramsey has promised to increase the proportion of officers on the streets. We'll ask exactly where every officer is assigned.
In joint testimony before our committee in April 1998, Ramsey, Superior Court Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton and U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis promised to develop an "on-call" system to allow officers to remain on duty until needed for court appearances. We will ask for a status report.
Every other jurisdiction of comparable size to the District has a statutory requirement for in-service training of police officers. We don't. Ramsey has made a commitment to develop an in-service training program even without the statutory requirement. On Nov. 20, he testified: "We have begun to revamp our entire training function, with an expanded focus on training for recruits, veteran officers, department managers and the community." Is the revamping complete? With what results?
We, along with D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp and D.C. Council Judiciary Committee Chairman Harold Brazil, also have reintroduced legislative recommendations included in the Omnibus Police Reform Act of 1998. Among other provisions, the legislation proposes to:
Amend the police department manual to provide additional requirements for applicants.
Standardize initial basic training and firearms training.
Require the chief to develop and implement a continuing education program.
Revise the standards on outside employment for police officers.
Authorize disciplinary investigations of a member of the police department who voluntarily resigns or elects optional retirement after knowledge of a pending disciplinary investigation.
At the same time that our committee was created, two other police reform efforts were announced. At the behest of the control board, Inspector General E. Barrett Prettyman Jr.'s "special investigations unit" looked into corruption in the police department. It did not find a systemic problem but "isolated instances" of corruption, including falsified time and attendance records, theft and misuse of government property. The U.S. Attorney also formed a task force to investigate criminal wrongdoing in the police department but has not made a similar public report. We'll ask for an update.
Holding ourselves accountable does not in and of itself save lives. But it is part of making the District a safer place to live and work. We call upon our colleagues in the public sector -- local and federal -- to do the same.
See you in October.
-- Jack Evans
-- Kathy Patterson
are members of the D.C. Council representing, respectively, Ward 2 and Ward 3.