Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
On April 10, 2002, Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to the US House of Representations Committe on Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, the Honorable Joe Knollenberg, Chairman.
Chairman Knollenberg, Congresswoman Norton, other members of the Subcommittee, staff, and guests: Thank you for the opportunity today to present you with an update on the Metropolitan Police Department's efforts to improve public safety in the District of Columbia - in terms of both reducing neighborhood crime and enhancing our emergency preparedness.
The events of September 11th forever changed policing in urban America. The impact of those changes has been particularly acute here in our Nation's Capital and within the Metropolitan Police Department. One year ago, when I testified before this subcommittee, "homeland security" was a foreign concept for local police departments. Today, homeland security has, of necessity, been incorporated into our basic mission of serving and protecting.
I am very proud of how the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department have responded to the challenges of September 11th - both in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks, when our officers were called upon to work long hours helping to secure key installations in our city, and also in the weeks and months that have followed, as our Department developed and implemented new policies, procedures, technology and training to deal with any future attacks. While we certainly hope and pray that no such acts of terrorism ever strike our nation again, I am pleased to report to the subcommittee that the MPD is better prepared than ever.
Important developments in this area have included the creation of a new and expanded Emergency Response system within the MPD that I believe is quite compatible with the system recently announced by Homeland Security Director Ridge. Our system lets our members know the level of threat we face and what is expected of them at each level. With the leadership of Mayor Williams and the strong support of Congress, our Department has also procured new equipment to support our anti-terrorism preparations, and our training has been expanded. To ensure that our members know what to do - in the field, not just on paper - we have also conducted a number of mock exercises in recent weeks, and have learned a great deal about what works and what needs to be improved.
Finally, we have significantly upgraded the technological infrastructure to support both homeland security and neighborhood safety efforts. Mister Chairman, I know you have toured our Joint Operations Command Center at Police Headquarters. This facility - and the technology behind it - were critical on, and immediately after, September 11th. And the Center continues to provide access to the type of real-time information needed by the MPD and our law enforcement partners in this region in managing major events and times of heightened alert. For example, the Closed Circuit Television Network within our Command Center allows us to monitor critical areas without having to devote officers on the ground to this duty. While I cannot guarantee that we will not need officers at key installations in the future, right now there are no homeland security-related "details" that are taking officers away from their neighborhood patrols for this responsibility.
I believe we have come a very long way - in a very short, but challenging period of time - in enhancing the law enforcement portion of the District's emergency response plan. As successful as we have been in this area, the MPD's primary mission remains the security of our neighborhoods and the protection of our residents, workers and visitors from crime.
As you know, the District has experienced a recent spate of violence in some of our neighborhoods, including drive-by shootings involving automatic weapons. These crimes are very disturbing, for they generate fear in our communities and undermine the quality of residents' lives. The MPD is working very hard to put an end to this violence and to bring to justice those who perpetrate it.
Our specific response to this latest outbreak of violence reflects our overall strategy of community policing - what we call "Policing for Prevention." First, we have focused additional law enforcement resources on the neighborhoods experiencing an increase in violence. For example, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, Commander Cathy Lanier of the Fourth District has implemented a new "precision patrol" initiative that is concentrating resources when and where they are needed most. Additional uniformed officers are being supplemented by our mobile force, our gang unit and our Narcotics Strike Force.
Citywide, we have placed close to 60 percent of our sworn members at the rank of lieutenant and below in the Police Service Areas, where they provide visibility, answer calls for service and develop partnerships with the community. This has been achieved through a redeployment plan that shifted officers from specialized units and administrative assignments into the PSAs. As we move from our current sworn strength of just over 3,600 to our goal of 3,800 officers, we will continue to concentrate the additional resources in our PSAs.
Having more officers in the PSAs supports the second element of Policing for Prevention - neighborhood partnerships, which are critical to solving many of the crime and disorder problems that lead to more serious problems of violence. Our joint community-police training program known as Partnerships for Problem Solving has now been initiated in all 83 PSAs, and all PSA lieutenants are now responsible for developing and implementing action plans for addressing crime in their areas of responsibility. Under Policing for Prevention, these plans are created and carried out in partnership with the community.
The third element of Policing for Prevention is systemic prevention - or addressing the underlying causes and conditions that lead to crime and delinquency in the first place. Here, we have been working with the faith community and others to develop a range of alternatives not just for teenagers, but also for young adults, aged 18-24, who make up a disproportionate number of offenders and victims in DC. Last month, our Office of Youth Violence Prevention wrapped up a citywide basketball tournament. The twist was that when the young men were not playing ball, they were attending workshops on finding a job, respecting others, family obligations and settling disputes without violence. These types of faith-based initiatives began in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, but are being implemented citywide, with a particular focus right now on neighborhoods experiencing gang violence.
Despite the publicity generated by some of the recent shootings, the crime picture in DC remains hopeful. Preliminary figures for 2001 show that reported crime rose by just about 1 percent last year - compared with much larger increases in surrounding jurisdictions and other major cities. Our homicide rate last year reached its lowest level since 1987, and the number of shootings, stabbings and other assaults has fallen 20 percent since 1998. So far this year, overall crime remains steady, with decreases in five of the eight crime categories. I am certainly not satisfied with where our crime rate is today. But I am hopeful that we can continue the record of success we have achieved over the last few years in making our neighborhoods safer. Those efforts will be further enhanced by Congressional funding support of two priorities identified by the Mayor: the Unified Communications Center, which will further enhance emergency response and customer service in the District; and a new forensics lab, which will enhance criminal investigations by speeding up the analysis of evidence.
I understand the subcommittee is particularly interested in the issue of overtime, specifically court overtime. This remains a critical issue - both fiscally and operationally - for our Department. And we continue to work at reducing the time officers spend in court, so that we can increase the time they have available in the community.
Over the past year, we have worked with the DC Superior Court, the Office of Corporation Counsel, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and Pretrial Services to implement a number of reforms aimed at reducing court-related overtime. Last year, for example, the MPD rolled out the papering reform pilot project in Regional Operations Command-Central, which included 17 quality-of-life and traffic offenses. More recently, working with the U.S. Attorney's Office, we have integrated three U.S. charges and are beginning to expand the entire reform initiative into ROC-North. This new procedure completely eliminates the appearance of the arresting officer during the papering process. The prosecutor makes a "papering" decision based on the information provided in the officer's arrest paperwork.
Night papering - a reform that eliminates the need for evening and midnight shift officers to appear at the U.S. Attorney's office during the day to be interviewed by prosecutors - has been piloted in the Third District. We believe that if night papering were to be implemented citywide, the potential savings to MPD - in both overtime expenditures and personnel hours - would be quite substantial. We are currently working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to finalize an evaluation of the pilot and to adjust the approach for a follow-up pilot.
The MPD has also worked with D.C. Superior Court to improve the efficiency of court scheduling, which will help reduce the overtime officers spend in court. For example, officers now check in for preliminary hearings on a staggered schedule, only one hour in advance instead of two. In a separate initiative with the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication, a BTA Calendar has been established. Officers now appear on one specific date each month for all of their traffic cases. This is a significant improvement from the previous practice in which officers reported to the BTA several different days a month to testify. Soon, officers will appear in D.C. Superior Court for D.C. and traffic cases using a similar court scheduling system. To further enhance the efficiency of court scheduling, the MPD will be installing the same Interactive Voice Response system used at BTA that allows officers to call in advance to find out if they have been scheduled to meet with attorneys or appear in court. This system should cut down the overtime accrued by officers who check into the Court Liaison Division, only to discover that their notice to appear in court was cancelled at the last minute.
Finally, the Citation Release reform has been implemented citywide. This initiative is intended primarily to expand the Citation Release option to include all misdemeanor charges (with the exception of intra-family offenses), standardize criteria and procedures for determining eligibility for Citation Release across all districts, and return the scheduling of arraignment hearing dates to the Pretrial Services Agency. An added benefit of Citation Release is greater flexibility for officers to plan their papering activities during on-duty hours. Finally, the new protocol tasks the station clerk with completing the final steps of the process and gives the supervisor the authority to release the arresting officer from the station so he can get back on the street where he is most needed.
As a result of these efforts, court overtime hours dropped 30 percent during the second quarter of FY 2002, as compared to the same time period last year, even as arrests went up 10 percent during January and February. We are developing more detailed reports that will allow us to pinpoint which of our strategies are having the most significant impact on court overtime and to identify areas for additional improvement.
While we have made progress in addressing court overtime, it must be noted that non-court overtime continues to be a problem for the MPD. In addition to the overtime expenses associated with post-9/11 activities, our Department has been encumbered with other domestic preparedness costs, such as training, technology and increased visibility patrols. We also have to deal with the costs associated with the upcoming meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group. For FY 2003, President Bush's budget proposal does set aside $15 million for public safety expenses related to national security events and terrorist threats in the District of Columbia. We are grateful for the President's support, and hopeful Congress will enact this provision in the budget.
As I said at the beginning of my statement, the terrorist attacks of September 11th forever changed policing in America. But those acts of cowardice, which targeted innocent civilians, also strengthened our Police Department's resolve to keep our city - our Nation's Capital - safe from all enemies, foreign and domestic. With the continued support of this body, I am confident we can achieve our goals. Thank you.