REPORTS OF thefts of money from District police stations are neither amusing nor anything to be treated lightly. When questions about the honesty of sworn officers reach the point where Chief Charles Ramsey must now consider installing cameras in front of safes within his own police stations, law enforcement in the nation's capital has reached a sorry state.

The 4th District case is nothing short of astonishing. A dedicated officer, Detective Harold Moseley, dies of cancer. A month later, in March 1998, a benefit cookout raises funds to help educate his four children. The money -- cash and checks -- is put in a safe to which reportedly only the police have access. Seven months later, when police come to retrieve the funds, only checks are found. The cash is gone.

There are thieves at work in the 2nd District, too. In August, $12,000 in cash taken from a homeless man and placed in the 2nd District's safe also vanished. Both of these cases, first reported by WTOP News, are alarming for what they say about the honesty of some individuals working within the bastions of law enforcement. If officers will steal from the family of a deceased colleague, what will they do to the public when given half a chance? Said one 4th District officer, "Somebody got greedy."

The police union cautions that the thefts "could have been" caused by other workers in the buildings. Fair enough. That makes it all the more important to find the person or persons responsible. Right now a cloud hangs over civilians and members of the department assigned to both police districts. Chief Ramsey is right to pursue these thefts -- and the way they were handled by District commanders -- with vigor. Whether the culprits are police officers or civilian workers, they should be caught, fired and prosecuted. A police department that must train cameras on police safes rather than cellblocks is a department in trouble.