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Joint Public Oversight Hearing on An Examination of the District of Columbia Governments Utilization of Emergency Preparedness Funding

Monday, October 6, 2003

Joint Public Oversight Hearing on An Examination of the District of Columbia Governments Utilization of Emergency Preparedness Funding

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on Government Operations, the Honorable Vincent B. Orange Sr., Chair; Committee on the Judiciary, the Honorable Kathy Patterson, Chair; and the Committee on Public Services, the Honorable David A. Catania, Chair, on October 6, 2003, at the Council Chamber, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

Chairpersons Orange, Patterson and Catania, other members of the Council, staff and guests … thank you for the opportunity to update you on the Metropolitan Police Department’s utilization of emergency preparedness funds over the past fiscal year. For your information, the text of my prepared statement is posted on the Police Department’s website: mpdc.dc.gov.

As you know, the Metropolitan Police Department is the primary agency responsible for Emergency Support Function 13, “Law Enforcement,” within the District's Emergency Response Plan. This ESF has significant responsibilities for public safety, criminal investigations, traffic management and other law enforcement-related duties in the event of a terrorist attack or other major event in our city. Actually, ESF 13 is a relatively new addition to the District’s Emergency Response Plan, having been added when the plan was completely rewritten following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. As we learned on that date – and as we have seen reinforced during subsequent events including, most recently, Hurricane Isabel – law enforcement plays a vital role in our city’s, and our region’s, response to major incidents. The availability of these emergency preparedness funds, and our track record of spending these funds efficiently and prudently, have dramatically enhanced our Department’s ability to help keep our residents, workers and visitors safe during major emergencies.

For FY03, the Metropolitan Police Department was appropriated just over $17.8 million dollars in emergency preparedness funds. These funds were allocated over five federal payment categories that reflect our agency’s roles and responsibilities in the area of emergency preparedness. The five categories are personal protective clothing and breathing apparatus; chemical and biological weapons preparedness; response and communications; search, rescue and other emergency equipment and support; and training and planning.

I am pleased to report to the committees that the Metropolitan Police Department has spent or obligated all of the $17.8 million dollars we received. We ended FY03 with a net fund balance of zero. I am proud not only of the fact that we spent all of our dollars, but more importantly, that we have spent them wisely, in the furtherance of our mission of protecting lives and property during what remain very difficult and very challenging times.

Before I highlight some of the significant improvements we have been able to achieve with the use of these funds, I do want to clarify two line items that may appear on some of the computerized printouts you received. Your spreadsheets may show a “Pending Requests” line of approximately $36,000 dollars. These funds were, in fact, obligated prior to the end of FY03, but because the computerized financial system was down at the time, these obligations had to be processed manually. As a result, they did not show up in the computerized records. Second, your printouts may show a line item of approximately $279,500 dollars as being an “uncommitted balance.” These funds actually represent cost transfers between funding accounts, and the money has been spent or obligated in two areas: training-related overtime and a local budget offset for our Air Support Unit and our K-9 Unit. I have staff with me who can explain these items in detail, if you have questions.

Using our emergency preparedness funds, the Metropolitan Police Department has been able to make significant upgrades in both the level and the quality of our emergency preparedness. These upgrades have dramatically enhanced the capabilities and safety of our members, which in turn, have dramatically enhanced our ability to protect the public.

For example, we have used these funds to buy personal protective gear for all of our employees, sworn and civilian. Depending on a member’s individual assignment, he or she has been equipped with appropriate gear in the event of a chemical or biological attack. All of our sworn members, as well as civilians in operational assignments, have been fitted for and issued personal protection suits and breathing apparatus. Officers in more specialized assignments – including the members of our Special Threat Action Team, or STAT – have received more extensive gear, as well as substantially more training, which I will discuss in a moment. Civilians in non-operational assignments have been fitted for and issued breathing apparatus and trained in its use.

The Metropolitan Police Department has provided all of its members with personal protective gear. This commitment to our employees reflects not only the reality that our nation’s capital remains a major target for terrorism, but also that, in the event of an attack, the Metropolitan Police Department would be one of the largest “first responder” forces in our city. We are in a much stronger position to fulfill that role because of the emergency preparedness funds we have received.

And we are in a stronger position not simply because we have more equipment, but also because we have provided our members with additional training, technology and other resources. As part of their annual, 40-hour in-service training, sworn officers have received introductory courses on weapons of mass destruction and other aspects of terrorism and our response plans. For this fiscal year, we are looking to expand that training to include more hands-on, scenario-based training, so that our officers are better prepared for their roles as first responders.

Using emergency preparedness funds, we have been able to supplement this Department-wide instruction with a wealth of additional training for those members with specialized anti-terrorism responsibilities. I mentioned our STAT a moment ago. These are approximately 120 officers who are specially trained and equipped to respond to a variety of incidents, to assess the situation, and to provide critical direction on how emergency agencies and the public should respond. They play an absolutely vital role in any emergency response. We have used emergency preparedness funds (as well as some free training resources from the Department of Defense) to help ensure that our STAT officers have the type of extensive and up-to-date training they need in areas such as hazardous materials, nerve agents and other threats. And to promote their own safety and the safety of the public, all STAT members are in the process of being trained as EMTs.

In the area of emergency preparedness and law enforcement, training is not a one-time event; it must be an ongoing exercise. Over the past year, we have been able to keep up with the training curve in this rapidly changing environment, thanks in large part to our emergency preparedness funds.

One other area I want to mention is technology and information-sharing, both internally within the MPD and regionally with other law enforcement agencies. Using emergency preparedness funds, we have made significant upgrades to our Joint Operations Command Center, which is used by the MPD, other DC government agencies, as well as federal and local public safety agencies in the region, to help manage major events. We procured new software that supports 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 in support of everyday crime-fighting efforts. We upgraded our video teleconferencing system to allow for more real-time communication with district stations, and we made some enhancements to our Closed Circuit Television system, including the addition of the District Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras. We also procured new communications and surveillance technology that will help us gather and share information during a major incident, when normal communications media may not be functioning properly.

These are just some of the highlights of how the Metropolitan Police Department has been able to use emergency preparedness dollars to enhance the capabilities of our Department and to advance our mission of public safety. I have absolutely no doubt that today, the Metropolitan Police Department is better prepared than it has even been to deal with a terrorist incident, a natural disaster or any other type of major event that may occur in our city.

I am also keenly aware that while we are certainly better, we are definitely not as good as we will need to be in the future. If there is one certainty when it comes to emergency preparedness and law enforcement, it is that things will always change. The threats we face will change, as will the state-of-the-art in terms of technology, equipment, knowledge and training. Much of what we have today could very well be outmoded tomorrow. To remain effective, our agency must be able to respond – and respond rapidly and efficiently – to changing conditions. These emergency preparedness funds have allowed us to do just that over the past year. And I pledge that our Department will continue to use these dollars wisely and effectively in the future, as we work to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Thank you again. My staff and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have at the conclusion of the panel.