D.C. Council members Jack Evans and Kathy Patterson call for accountability in police work, and that is fine ["Spotlight on D.C. Police," Close to Home, Aug. 8]. But I would urge them to get a better understanding of law enforcement before they criticize D.C. police.

For example, if the District has 3,600 sworn officers, it can have only one-third of those officers on the street on any shift. One 24-hour day has three shifts of eight hours. While most officers work overtime and many have court duty, some are in training for firearms, etc. Others may be at home on sick leave or with a sick child or parent. Some officers are on approved annual leave. Therefore, no police force is likely to have more than a third of the force on duty during any normal shift. I know this firsthand, because although we at the U.S. border patrol have 8,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents, we can never get more than approximately 2,500 or 2,600 on the line during any one shift.

Research shows that training increases the effectiveness of a law enforcement agency, but the force on the streets is temporarily diminished during the training period.

Mr. Evans and Ms. Patterson would do well to study in more detail their own police force. As a D.C. resident and taxpayer I find it dismaying that they would spend $400,000 on a police study and still not understand basic D.C. policing numbers.



The writer is director of health and fitness for the U.S. Border Patrol in Washington.