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Oversight Hearing on FY2001 and FY2002 Performance

Monday, February 25, 2002

Oversight Hearing on FY2001 and FY2002 Performance

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement during the "Oversight Hearing on FY2001 and FY2002 Performance," sponsored by the Committee on the Judiciary, Council of the District of Columbia. The hearing was held February 25, 2002.

Madam Chair, members of the Committee and guests - thank you for the opportunity to present this opening statement outlining the Metropolitan Police Department's performance during fiscal year 2001 and year-to-date in fiscal 2002. As a note to you and our viewing audience on DC Cable 13, the text of my prepared remarks is available on the Police Department's Web site - http://mpdc.dc.gov/.

Today's hearing comes at a critical time for our Police Department - indeed, for our city. In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, our city still faces very real, but largely unknown threats, and our Department has had to assume new and unique responsibilities related to homeland security here in our Nation's Capital. At the same time, we continue to expand and enhance our community policing and crime reduction efforts in District neighborhoods.

I think it is important to understand this is not an "either-or" proposition: either focus on homeland safety or on neighborhood safety. I fully recognize that our Department's primary responsibility remains fighting crime and protecting our neighborhoods. But our neighborhoods and our residents cannot be safe if our entire city is not safe - both our neighborhoods and our national treasures. As the primary law enforcement agency in the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department has unique and significant responsibilities in both arenas. And I want to assure the Committee - and the public - that we are meeting these challenges through hard work, diligence and innovation. I believe our performance during the past two fiscal years reflects that commitment.

Fiscal Responsibility and Management
During fiscal years 2001 and 2002, the MPD has met our public safety responsibilities - and we have done so within budget. This has been achieved through strong fiscal oversight and management. Even as our Department moves toward the new, performance-based budgeting process, we continue to monitor very closely our spending under the current system. And we continue to demonstrate strong fiscal responsibility in managing the taxpayer dollars allocated to us.

We continue to maximize our use of grant and capital funds. Grants that expired in FY 2001 had a spending rate of almost 99 percent. There were zero percent grant funds disallowed and 100 percent of matching funds set aside during fiscal 2001. Through the leadership of Congresswoman Norton, we have been able to receive federal reimbursement for certain expenses related to protecting the Nation's Capital, and the President has included a specific line item in his FY 2003 budget proposal specifically for these expenses. Finally, we continue to implement important public safety programs - most notably, our automated traffic enforcement initiative - at no cost to District taxpayers.

The bottom line is that the MPD continues to operate within its means. Despite highly publicized concerns last year that the MPD was somehow running a large deficit just a few days into fiscal 2001, we ended the year on budget. And we continue to practice the same fiscal responsibility in FY 2002.

Staffing Plans
Of course, the largest portion of our budget remains personnel, and there have been several important developments in this area. First, our Department has developed an ambitious plan to get to our authorized level of 3,800 officers. The plan includes aggressive hiring targets over the next several months. The law enforcement job market in the DC area remains highly competitive - especially with expanded federal opportunities since "Nine-Eleven" - but we are stepping up our recruiting for both entry-level officers and lateral hires, including a major Career Expo scheduled for April 27th at the Washington Convention Center.

We are also stepping up efforts to retain officers. Over the last few months, our attrition numbers have been below average, and we are working to keep them there. As you know, we recently negotiated a new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, providing a significant pay raise over the next three years. We have established a system of regular promotional opportunities for sworn members. I just recently swore in the last group of promotees from the FY 2001 promotional process, and we have administered the written portion of the FY 2002 exam. Finally, we have established a regular system of awards and recognition for our members - all of which is going a long way toward boosting morale, which has translated into fewer officers leaving the Department.

As you know, our Department has conducted two surveys - one in 1998, the other in December 2001 - to measure the attitudes and opinions of our employees, both sworn and civilian. The preliminary results from the latest survey - which have not been formally published, but which we have shared with the Committee - show steady and significant progress. Seventy percent of respondents in the latest survey agreed with the statement that the MPD is a good organization to work for - that's up from just over 50 percent in 1998. A majority of members still feel that the MPD is becoming a better organization to work for. And three out of four respondents, 74 percent, said they are proud to be a member of the MPD - that is up from just 61 percent who expressed pride during the baseline survey.

The latest survey also found some improvements in employees' opinions of the Department's hiring, management and promotional practices. For example, fewer than 10 percent of respondents in 1998 said MPD's disciplinary review procedures were fair; that number nearly tripled, to more than 28 percent, in the latest survey. Similarly, only 12 percent of respondents four years ago agreed that members who do their jobs well get ahead in the MPD; in the most recent survey, the number was 22 percent.

While the latest survey shows that the numbers are moving in the right direction, I am certainly not yet satisfied with the overall results. We have worked hard to improve our promotional, disciplinary and other management practices, and the positive direction of the latest survey reflects those efforts. Still, our commitment is not only to make these systems better, but also to ensure that our members see a difference in their own work. We will continue the aggressive reform program we have set in motion, and we will continue to measure our progress through future employee surveys.

In addition to increasing the overall number of officers on the force, we have taken steps to maximize the number of officers on the street, especially in our Police Service Areas. The PSA staffing plan presented to the Council last month has been implemented. More than 1,800 sworn members - 58 percent of all officers, sergeants and lieutenants - are now assigned to the PSAs. We have initiated papering reform projects with both the Corporation Counsel's Office and the United States Attorney's Office, and are hopeful that, following an evaluation, these very promising pilot efforts will be expanded and made permanent.

We have also taken steps to make court scheduling more efficient - resulting in fewer officers sitting in court and more officers out on the street. One important reform is the establishment of a "court key" for officers called to appear at the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. Under this system, officers are assigned one date each month during which all of their traffic citations will be heard. Previously, officers who issued a lot of tickets could be called to BTA several days a month, taking up valuable patrol time. We are working to establish a similar "court key" system for other cases as well.

Finally, we are working to supplement MPD sworn resources with those of other agencies and volunteers. Again, under Congresswoman Norton's leadership, Congress passed - then expanded - the Police Coordination Act, which extends the jurisdiction of federal and other law enforcement agencies that operate in the District. To date, we have executed five Police Coordination Act agreements with other agencies, with more planned for the future.

In addition, we have reactivated - and dramatically expanded - the Police Reserve Corps program, providing new opportunities for resident volunteers to work side-by-side with officers in various administrative, traffic and community policing assignments. The new structure includes five different classes of Reserve officers, with expanding levels of training and responsibility at each progressive level. The idea is to make the program more flexible, so that residents who may be able to contribute only a few hours each month can still participate, along with those who may be able to commit more time. Our goal is to recruit at least five new Reserve officers on each of our 83 PSAs.

Infrastructure Improvements
In addition to investing in our people, we continue to invest in our infrastructure. During FY 2001 and 2002, facilities renovations and upgrades continued at all of our district stations, as well as other facilities. We also opened two new facilities: a new Mobile Crime building on V Street, NE, and a new, industry-standard Fleet Maintenance facility at the old Northeast Ford dealership. By the end of this month, the Mobile Crime facility will house our unified mobile crime and crime scene search functions in a facility that is large and modern enough for our technicians to process evidence more efficiently and effectively. One other facility - the ROC-North headquarters at the old Petworth Elementary School - is slated to open this summer. This facility is particularly impressive because it will house not only police operations, but also extensive community resources, including a new clubhouse for the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs.

In the area of fleet, our Department purchased 110 new vehicles during FY 2001, continuing our program of regular upgrades and replacements. The average age of our fleet is now 3.7 years - less than half of what it was just four years ago. Excluding vehicles involved in accidents, our average fleet availability now exceeds 96 percent - again, a dramatic improvement from the past. As you know, the Department recently purchased its Falcon One helicopter. This addition to our fleet has already proven invaluable to both our neighborhood safety and homeland security efforts.

In the area of training, we continue to provide our members with a strong program of annual in-service, daily roll-call and specialized instruction. During fiscal 2001, we established and staffed the Police Training and Standards Board to ensure that both our training and the standards for our officers are appropriate and effective. We also conducted a training needs survey of our members, and we are responding with new courses in leadership, technology and legal issues. I am confident in saying that our members today are better trained - with more extensive training opportunities - than at any time in our recent history.

Technology Enhancements
In another critical area - technology - our Department is not only better equipped, but also better positioned for the future. Technological enhancements are enabling us to meet our dual responsibilities of neighborhood safety and homeland security in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

During FY 2001, we dramatically expanded the Synchronized Operations Command Complex on the 5th floor of the Municipal Building. The most important upgrade was the creation of the Joint Operations Command Complex, a truly state-of-the-art facility designed to allow the MPD and our federal and other law enforcement partners to come together, share information, and jointly plan and operate during major events or crises. The JOCC was originally designed to be unveiled during the fall 2001 meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, but was pressed into action on the morning of September 11th. It has provided tremendous support to our public safety efforts in the days, weeks and months that have followed.

One feature of the JOCC that has been the subject of considerable attention - and, quite frankly, a good deal of misinformation of late - has been our use of video to monitor public spaces that are potential targets. Currently, the JOCC allows us to access video feeds from approximately a dozen cameras the Department has installed, focusing on key institutions in the downtown area. We are also exploring, and have begun testing, the ability to tap into other publicly operated video systems - from the public schools and Metro, for example - for use during specific instances when video feeds would be helpful.

The goal of our video system is straightforward: to enhance public safety during critical incidents and in times of heightened alert, without infringing on any individual's right to privacy. Understand that the JOCC is not a 24/7 monitoring operation. Rather, the Center - and the video feeds - are activated only during those times when an extra view of critical installations in our city would be helpful to law enforcement operations. For example, we activated the JOCC on February 11th, following the specific terrorist alert from the FBI. Should the need arise to activate the center in the future, we will not hesitate to do so. And during those times, we will monitor public spaces using video because we should - not simply because we can.

As for neighborhood-based cameras, we have been approached by business leaders in Georgetown about accessing video cameras they would purchase and install on public spaces in that community - again, for use during critical periods such as weekends and major events or parties. We will consider similar requests from other communities provided that two criteria are met: first, that there is a specific public safety problem that the cameras could effectively address; and second, that there is widespread community input, dialogue and support. We will not consider video technology in any community that does not support its use.

Last week, I met with representatives of the ACLU and other organizations to show them exactly what we are doing and to begin a dialogue on the ongoing development of policy in this area. Technology is developing rapidly, and we are committed to ensuring that our policies and procedures keep pace with the technology. I invite input from the Council, the ACLU and others as we continue this process. I think it is important for the Committee and the public to understand that video is not a panacea to making our city safer. Rather, video is another tool that will assist us in these times of heightened alert and growing demands on our services. We will use this tool responsibly, legally and openly.

The technological accomplishments of the MPD during the last two fiscal years go well beyond the JOCC and video surveillance. Last summer, for example, we opened the joint Public Safety Communications Center on McMillan Drive, NW. This advanced facility combines for the first time police, fire and EMS communications in a single facility. We continue to plan for the Unified Communications Center that will extend our emergency and non-emergency communications even further.

We have also expanded our Mobile Digital Computer network, with 300 additional cars equipped with MDCs during fiscal 2001. These devices will become even more critical when the Department begins rolling out its new and comprehensive records management system known as PRIDE. This system will not only consolidate many of our existing records systems; it will also allow officers to enter and access information more easily - including, directly from their scout cars. PRIDE's automated field reporting function will go a long way toward improving officer efficiency and keeping officers in the community.

Just this morning, we demonstrated some of the other new technology our Department is rolling out. It includes sophisticated crime mapping capabilities that will help PSA teams and district commanders identify problems and develop solutions. We have also developed a comprehensive criminal investigations system known as "Columbo," which will help detectives access and link information, and develop leads in homicides and other serious crimes. Crime mapping and "Columbo" are also being used by myself and other Department leaders to support our accountability sessions known as TOPS - or Targeted Organizational Performance Sessions. A few years ago, the MPD would never have been "accused" of being "high-tech." Today, we are developing and implementing bold new technologies that are making a real difference in our communities.

Community Policing
Community policing remains the focus of our Department, and we have taken important steps in all three aspects of our "Policing for Prevention" strategy. In the area of focused law enforcement, our Narcotics Strike Force continues to target the problems of street-level drug dealing and open-air drug markets. Operational since October 2000, the Strike Force arrested nearly 2,000 suspects on narcotics-related charges during FY 2001, with more than half of the cases involving felonies and with a papering rate of 90 percent. The Strike Force also seized more than $320,000 dollars in cash, 80 weapons and 50 vehicles during this period. Perhaps most importantly, we have seen drug-related calls for service decline in the neighborhoods the Narcotics Strike Force has targeted, indicating it is having an important, longer-term impact as well.

Another important reform has been in the area of criminal investigations. A new, centralized Violent Crimes Branch was created at the beginning of January, with responsibility for investigating all homicides and serious AWIK offenses citywide. Other violent and property crime detectives remain in the seven police districts, but all of our investigators now fall under the same chain of command within the Office of the Superintendent of Detectives. In addition to the new organization, we have implemented a new protocol and additional training for homicide investigators. And our Office of Quality Assurance has begun to conduct detailed reviews of open homicide cases on a regular basis. All of these changes are designed to continue the reduction in our murder rate, while boosting the homicide clearance rate, which has fallen in recent years.

The second prong of "Policing for Prevention" is neighborhood partnerships, and we continue to make significant progress here as well. As of today, we have initiated or completed Partnerships for Problem Solving training on each of our 83 PSAs. To complement this unique, hands-on training in community policing, we have published handbooks on the roles of the PSA teams and the community, so that both partners have a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.

Other partnerships that have developed over the last two years include stepped-up monitoring and assistance for people on probation and parole, in conjunction with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency … the Neighborhood Service Initiative, working with other city agencies to address environmental and other conditions that impact crime in our communities … and the Capital Communities project, targeting drug dealing in six specific PSAs. In three of those PSAs - 301, 603 and 710 - I am pleased to report significant decreases in serious crime. So these partnerships are making a difference, and we continue to work at expanding and enhancing them.

Finally, in the area of systemic prevention, we have also formed new programs and partnerships that are helping us attack the underlying causes and conditions that lead to crime - with a particular focus on youth crime and violence. Through our Office of Youth Violence Prevention and the three Regional Operations Commands, we have established a variety of programs - from "40 days of peace" observances last summer, to basketball tournaments, to mentoring programs - that are reaching out to our youth and young adults in new and meaningful ways.

Youth violence has been a particular focus of our systemic prevention efforts because of the heavy toll it takes on our city. Twenty-eight juveniles were murdered in our city in 1999. And while I am pleased to report that the number of victims declined to 9 in 2001, that is still nine young lives lost far too early. We remain committed to working with all of our partners, in particular the faith community, to reach our young people and help direct them in positive ways - before they end up being another statistic.

Traffic Safety
One last area I want to touch on briefly is traffic safety, which continues to be a major public safety concern in our city. The District recorded 72 traffic fatalities during 2001 - a sharp increase from previous years, with more than half of the fatalities speeding-related. To combat this serious problem, our Department continues to use both traditional and automated strategies.

In the area of traditional enforcement, we have received grants to step up our speeding enforcement, drunken driving, underage drinking and seat belt safety efforts. We have purchased new laser guns, procured a new DWI processing van, acquired portable identity-verification systems to combat the use of fake IDs, and have begun using passive alcohol sensors during sobriety checkpoints.

In the area of automated enforcement, our red-light camera program continues to show impressive results, with a 65 percent reduction in violations captured at the 39 intersections equipped with cameras. That is the equivalent of about 24,000 fewer violations each and every month. Our new photo radar speeding reduction program, implemented last summer, is beginning to produce similarly encouraging results. Six months into the program, the percentage of vehicles exceeding the photo radar threshold has been cut in half - from 31 percent of the vehicles monitored last July during our warning period, to 15 percent in January 2002. Average speeds also are declining, especially on residential streets. In 25-mile per hour zones, for example, the average speed of all vehicles has dropped from 35.5 miles per hour to 28.9 miles per hour during that same time frame (see results).

These automated enforcement programs are changing peoples' driving behavior, which is our goal - to get motorists to stop at red lights and obey the speed limit. And we are achieving this goal at absolutely no cost to District taxpayers - all program costs are covered by the fines that are collected.

Of course, there has been a great deal of discussion about the structure of the contract with the vendor that provides automated traffic enforcement services to the District. Some have expressed concern that the current "per-ticket-paid" fee structure may give the appearance of a conflict of interest. While I can assure the Committee that our programs are operated with integrity and strong oversight on the part of the MPD, we are very sensitive to the concerns that have been expressed, and we are working to address them. In conjunction with the Office of Contracting and Procurement, our Department and the vendor have renegotiated the terms of our agreement, replacing the current vendor payment structure with a more traditional flat monthly fee. The Office of the Corporation Counsel has reviewed the revised contract twice, and requested changes in both instances, which we have made. The contract is now undergoing final review and approvals, prior to being presented to the Council, which should occur very shortly.

The bottom line is that these automated traffic enforcement programs are working, they enjoy strong support in our communities, and we want to see them move forward without even a hint of controversy or taint.

Customer Service
The last area I want to touch on this afternoon is customer service - because, when all is said and done, it is how well we serve the community that really matters. During February 2001, our Department conducted a comprehensive survey of recent crime victims*. The results of that survey have just been published.

In many respects, the findings are encouraging. Seventy-nine percent of victims surveyed indicated that they were either very satisfied (that's 51 percent) or somewhat satisfied (28 percent) with the services they received from the MPD. We got particularly high marks on the quality of the initial responding officers - the compassion and concern they showed to victims.

The survey also revealed, however, areas where we need improvement. In particular, victims reported that in following up on their cases, officers and detectives did not always offer victim compensation or crime prevention information - information that could help victims in the future. And the survey found that 13 percent of the victims interviewed were re-victimized during the ensuing 90 days from the original offense. So we clearly need to do a better job of empowering victims to prevent repeat victimizations and to access the resources they may need in the recovery process.

One other area we continue to focus on in FY 2001 and 2002 is use-of-force reform. In June 2001, the District signed an historic Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Justice Department on implementing a comprehensive program of use-of-force reforms. This MOA codified many of the efforts we had already begun, and it identified some new areas for change. To ensure that we are fulfilling our end of the agreement, I promoted earlier this month an Inspector to head up our entire use-of-force reform effort. Among other responsibilities, he will manage a new Compliance Monitoring Unit that is charged with overseeing implementation of all aspects of our MOA.

One other important step we have taken is the recent expansion of our Force Investigation Team. Previously, the FIT team focused solely on use of deadly force. Now, it is investigating incidents in which officers use less-than-lethal force as well. This expansion of the FIT unit will help us better investigate and monitor all use-of-force incidents, which in turn will help us with ongoing policy development, equipment acquisition and training.

Use of force is one of the most important and sensitive aspects of our job as police officers. We have made tremendous strides in the last few years, and I fully intend to keep us moving forward in this area.

Results
The various programs and reform efforts I have touched on this afternoon are just part of the MPD's performance during the previous and current fiscal years. All of our efforts are geared toward the bottom-line goal of reducing crime and making our neighborhoods safer. 2001 presented unique challenges to our Department - with certainly the greatest and most unexpected being the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I am proud of how our Department responded to that challenge, while continuing to address crime problems in our neighborhoods.

Preliminary figures for 2001 indicate reductions in five of the eight Index crime categories, including homicide, sexual assault and aggravated assaults. There were increases last year in robbery, burglary and stolen autos - crimes that we are now targeting through our PSA efforts and focused mission teams. Our city did experience a "spike" in crimes - including homicides - in the weeks immediately following the "Nine-Eleven" attacks. I am pleased to report that "spike" was apparently short-lived. Thus far in 2002, we have experienced reductions in seven of the eight major crime types, including homicide.

This trend is particularly encouraging, for it has taken place even as our homeland security responsibilities have remained significant. This is an indication of our Department's ability - through hard work and effective management - to handle our additional responsibilities in the post-Nine Eleven world, without diminishing our primary commitment to neighborhood safety.

The times ahead are bound to be even more challenging and unpredictable. But I believe we have in place the people, the infrastructure, the technology and the strategies to get the job done. I thank you for your strong oversight and your continued support.