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Joint Public Oversight Hearing on District of Columbia Preparedness

Monday, October 28, 2002

Joint Public Oversight Hearing on District of Columbia Preparedness

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to the Council of the District of Columbia, various committees, on October 28, 2002.

Good morning ... and thank you for the opportunity to present this brief opening statement on behalf of Chief Ramsey. For your information, the text of my statement is available on the Police Department’s website: http://mpdc.dc.gov.

One year ago, the Council held a hearing on the state of emergency preparedness, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. One year later, I am pleased to report, the Metropolitan Police Department has made significant progress in terms of law enforcement preparedness and our ability to respond to any number of emergencies. There is no doubt in my mind that, today, we are in a much better position, than at any time in the District’s history, to help keep our residents, workers and visitors safe in the event of another major emergency.

Our progress over the past year reflects the commitment of the Metropolitan Police Department to do everything we can to be better prepared for the unprecedented challenges facing law enforcement in the post-Nine-Eleven environment. I want to acknowledge the financial support we have received from the Bush administration and Congress. To date, our department has obligated more than $9.7 million in domestic preparedness Funds for a variety of critical equipment, technology, training and other needs. And, of course, we have benefited from the leadership and oversight of the Mayor and the Council.

Very briefly, I want to touch on five key areas where we have significant achievements in our law enforcement preparedness.

First is planning and coordination. Soon after the 9-11 attacks, we implemented a detailed Emergency Response System that closely mirrors the new federal system. In addition to normal operations, our system includes three progressively higher levels of response, with specific resources and actions triggered at each level. We have trained our members in this system, and we have conducted numerous drills and exercises in its implementation. More importantly, we have used the system – and used it effectively – in real-world applications, most recently the IMF/World Bank protests and the heightened alert that accompanied the anniversary of September 11th.

Not only is our planning more structured and comprehensive; so is our coordination with other agencies in the region. We have made new enhancements to our Joint Operations Command Center, which is used by multiple agencies in the region during major incidents. In addition, law enforcement leaders throughout the area have established a regular system of conference calls for sharing intelligence and operational information related to terrorism and other multi-jurisdictional issues. Having this network in place was particularly important in coordinating the investigation of the recent sniper shootings.

The second area is equipment. Over the past year, we have made essential – and long-overdue – investments in a range of equipment for our members. A major emphasis has been on personal protective gear, especially for those members who will be among the “first responders” to any type of chemical, biological or other hazardous situation. We have outfitted all of our members with personal protective suits, and we have provided more sophisticated gear for members of specialized units who would respond to the most hazardous situations. We have also purchased specialty vehicles, intelligence support equipment and other materials needed both for investigating and responding to extraordinary circumstances.

The third area is training. During FY 2002, we provided nearly 2,900 officers and sergeants with an eight-hour course on law enforcement’s response to weapons of mass destruction. Officials and Command members received not only this course, but also a session on the Law Enforcement Incident Command System, to better prepare our leaders for managing unusual incidents. Members of our Emergency Response Team, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and other specialized personnel have received even more sophisticated Haz-Mat training. Our commitment to emergency preparedness training is ongoing, and training is continuing into FY 03.

The fourth area I want to mention is technology. As I mentioned earlier, we have upgraded our Joint Operations Command Center with new software to expedite the capture, analysis and sharing of information during critical incidents. New GIS software is giving us more geographic-based information in the JOCC, which is important not only during major events, but also to support everyday crime-fighting. We have also upgraded our video teleconferencing system to allow for more real-time communication with district stations, and we have made some enhancements to our closed circuit yelevision system, including the addition of the District Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.

The fifth and final area is traffic management. We worked closely with DDOT in identifying the District’s “Event Route Corridors,” and we have developed detailed traffic plans for handling traffic along these routes and at other critical locations, in the event of a future emergency.

This statement represents only a brief summary of the steps the Metropolitan Police Department has taken – and the progress we have made – in certain key areas of law enforcement preparedness. The threat we continue to face from terrorism is very real, but still largely unknown – which makes our job all the more challenging.

While it is impossible to plan or prepare for each and every situation that could arise, the Metropolitan Police Department has made – and will continue to make – the critical investments that are putting us in a much better position to respond to future emergencies facing our citizens. Thank you.