D.C. Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson has told friends that he is distressed and angry because of what he perceives as continual interference in his department by Mayor Marlon Barry.
Jefferson has told friends that he feels his authority to run the department has been undercut by a series of public and private actions taken by Barry in the first five months of the mayor's term.
Although routine day-to-day operations of the department have been unaffected by this strained relationship between Barry and Jefferson, police sources said, there has been concern that some sticky problems have been allowed to grow almost out of control. The example cited most frequently is the controversy about chief of detectives William Trussell, who was temporarily relieved of his command Tuesday.
"I want to run my department . . ." Jefferson told an associate recently. "But I do feel this thing (the Trussell issue) may have done irreparable harm. I have to review my role . . . I am going to be ineffective if the mayor continues to intervene."
Jefferson, who was appointed to his job by former mayor Walter E. Washington, complained to Barry earlier this month that some Barry aides had been telephoning him with instructions, police sources said. They said Jefferson asked the mayor to call him directly if he had any messages to convey.
Barry's intervention in police affairs has caused many police and administration officials to ask, in effect, "Who's running the department, Jefferson or Barry"
Barry's actions also have led to reports that Jefferson has been thinking about whether he should resign.
Barry heatedly denied yesterday that there was any friction between him and Jefferson. "There are people who want to exacerbate problems that don't exist. If I had a problem with the chief, everyone would know about it," Barry said in an interview punctuated with occasional curses.
"All this innuendo - now quote this - comes mainly from the press. Nobody knows who in the hell they [the sources] are. If y'all can't find anything negative to report, you create it," the mayor said.
During the interview, Barry picked up his hot line and called City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers and Jefferson - who was in Rogers' office at that moment - to come talk to a reporter in the mayor's presence.
Jefferson, in equally heated language, denied that there was any friction between him and his boss, and denied telling anyone he was considering resignation.
"All this crap you're hearing is nothing but bull - ," Jefferson said. "He has not interferred [in the Trusell affair] in any way. The only thing he has done is to call me periodically to ask when the investigation would be completed."
In addition to the Trussell controversy, the sources cite these actions:
Barry's courting of the police union leadership, a group previously relegated to an ineffectual role under Washington, but elevated by Barry and given a high-profile role in police department operations. The union's endorsement of Barry last fall was a major step in Barry's attempt to erase the militant image he held for years.
Barry's direct, public and unprecedented involvement in recent high-level police promotions. Unlike Washington, Barry made many of the selections and then announced them at a press conference, leaving Jefferson in the background, sources said. Barry also invited the union leadership to the announcement, although the union represents only lower-ranking officers. Barry said yesterday that he and Jefferson had agreed on the promotions.
Barry publicly overruled Jefferson last February when the mayor allowed farmers demonstrating on the Mall to have one last "tractorcade" protest. Jefferson had previously announced there would be no more tractorcades because the farmers had disrupted traffic and violated agreements with the police.
"That hurt Jefferson so bad," a friend of Jefferson said. "There was nothing he could do. He was clearly not in charge of the police department."
Although Barry has on a couple of public occasions said Jefferson has his "full confidence," an administration source quoted Barry as saying Jefferson will not be police chief through Barry's first term.
Rumors persist within the department that Jefferson "is on his way out." One police source close to Jefferson said twice in a recent interview that he felt Jefferson isn't "going to stay around here much longer."
A friend of Jefferson's said, "Jeff (Jefferson) is very downhearted. Jeff doesn't want to leave. He doesn't plan to leave. But he very well may." The source said Jefferson "feels he is not being respected (by Barry), which could indeed amount to finally leaving because he feels he does not have that confidence (from the mayor."
Jefferson, who joined the force in 1948, is eligible to retire in September at 80 percent of his $47,500 annual salary. Jefferson is 54 years old.
Sources said it is partially Jefferson's old-fashioned style - a strict chain-of-command, by-the-book approach to solving problems - that has clashed with the style of Barry, an activist mayor who attacks problems where he sees them and believes in taking a more active role in police department affairs.
"Unlike previous administrations, I intend to be active in all aspects of the government," Barry said yesterday.
In contrast, sources said, Jefferson is a veteran police officer used to a department in which, under Washington, many actions were virtually accomplished facts by the time the chief informed the mayor or city administrator about them.
A ranking aide to the mayor said yesterday that there was a clash of styles between the two men, but no tension. "They have two different ways of doing things," the aide said. "Jeff's the chief of a paramilitary org-banization . . . The mayor is a political animal."
A former high-ranking police official said Barry's activist role in the department is consistent with how mayors conduct themselves in other big cities.
The former official said that previous police chiefs, before the city received limited home rule, answered to the congress and the president, rather than the mayor. As home rule for the city broadens, the former official said, the mayor is becoming the principal political authority in the city.
That same former official said Jefferson apparently has reacted to the change in administrations by isolating himself, letting the staff handle the department on a day-to-day basis.
Jefferson reportedly "froze out" one adviser, Assistant Chief Bernie Crooke, formerly the number two official in the department. Sources close to Crooke, who resigned to become police chief of Montgomery County, said Crooke was left with little to do during the last 10 months of his career on the force. "I don't know who's advising him [Jefferson] now" on broad policy decision, the former official said.
"The big thing here is Jeff's isolation," the former police official said."It's forcing Barry to take a hand. The Trussell thing shouldn't have taken five minutes. It was a pimple. He could have taken care of it by talking to the detectives early."
In the Trussell controversy, Barry sue after Barry and his aides became convinced that the chief was not moving quickly enough to get the problem solved.
Trussell, 51, a nearly 30-year veteran on the force, and commander of the criminal investigations division until he was temporarily reassigned this week, was accused by homicide squad detectives of incompetence and of making a racial slur against blacks.
The discontent, which had been simmering in the squad since September, became public in May when the detectives openly rebelled against Trussell and demanded a meeting with Jefferson. Jefferson at first refused to meet with the officers, but later was directed by Barry to do so.
Homicide sources say Barry telephoned the squad every five minutes after Jefferson was late for the 8 a.m. meeting, asking if he had arrived. Sources in the mayor's office also said Barry at first planned to attend the meeting, but decided against it.
Police sources say Barry directed Jefferson to set up the three-member police panel to investigate the squad's complaints. Last week, when the panel issued to Barry its first of two reports on the controversy, Barry said publicly that he had telephoned Jefferson every day asking why the report was taking so long.
Another major change that Barry's administration has brought is Barry's willingness to allow the police union a larger role in police affairs.
Barry's close relationship with union leaders Larry Simons, president, and Larry Melton, executive vice president, began while he was still on the council.
At a meeting on March 20, the union board of directors told Barry they wanted to meet with Jefferson, who had not met with the board in the almost 15 months he had been chief. Jefferson showed up at the March 27 meeting a week later.
It was during this meeting that Jefferson first learned that the union and homicide squad was bitterly complaining about Deputy Chief Trussell. Union sources said the meeting included several heated exchanges, at one point Jefferson threatening to charge some of the board members - all policemen - with insubordination for criticizing their superior officer.
Simons, president of the union, which has been in existence six years and has negotiated only one contract with the department, said his relationship with Jefferson has improved markedly under Barry.
"He [Jefferson] could no longer say. 'I don't want to talk about it,'" Simons said. "I call him, I get a response," Simons said.
Union officials, when asked, down-play their relationship with Barry, saying only that the mayor has opened his door to all unions.
Of his relationship to the union, Barry said yesterday, "I'm running the city. I'm the mayor of the city . . .. Any chief of police (or chief executive) would be insane not to talk with the union. They represent the rank and file."
However unhappy the mayor may be with Jefferson, Barry identifies with Jefferson's rise to the chief's job sources said. Jefferson is the city's first black police chief.
An informed source said that Barry is concerned that poorly run city departments will give critics of the city excuses to keep congressional control over the district rather than granting full home rule.
A fight with Jefferson would reinforce "deep-seated prejudice that many have that blacks aren't capable of running the city," one black official said.
One acquaintance of Jefferson said yesterday that it was fear of creating division in the city's black leadership that was keeping Jefferson from publicly expressing his dissatisfation.
"Jeff doesn't feel he has 100 percent confidence," the acquaintance said. "They (Barry and others) may be saying he has it, but they really don't mean it. He (Jefferson) feels he may be out of step with what they want.
"But Jeff believes so strongly that blacks shouldn't fight against each other publicly that he won't attack the mayor." CAPTION: Picture, Chief Burtell Jefferson talks to reporters after meeting detectives.