MAYOR BARRY ACTED WISELY in pressing his police chief for a prompt response to a rebellion of detectives. Not only are the detectives' charges against Deputy Chief William Trussell serious, but failure of the city to act quickly would have invited congressional intervention in a matter that the local government can handle itself. At the mayor's urging, Chief Burtell M. Jefferson has appointed a three-member panel to investigate charges by homicide squad detectives that Deputy Chief Trussell, who is chief of detectives, is "incompetent" and that he has made racial slurs.
The case is no matter of a few disgruntled officers with a grudge. The department's homicide squad is a close-knit group of experienced investigators; and 42 of 45 members signed a letter to Chief Jefferson declaring their "collective rage" and charging that the deputy chief has violated police procedures in investigations and jeopardized major homicide cases. These complaints certainly deserve thorough investigation. Mayor Barry was worried that members of Congress, who had been aproached by some police officers, might intervene. That was the bad practice before the establishment of an elected local government; police officers were constantly going over the heads of their chiefs and the District commissioners to Congress.Today, an elected governmejnt is entirely capable of running its police department faily and efficiently-and the city adminstration is right to resist any reversion to the old arrangement.