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Oversight Hearing on Proposed FY2001 Budget

Monday, February 14, 2000

Oversight Hearing on Proposed FY2001 Budget

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chairman Brazil, members of the committee and guests - thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon to review the Metropolitan Police Department's spending during fiscal years 1999 and 2000. With me today are Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer, Executive Director for Corporate Support Eric Coard, and Chief Financial Officer Dan Tangherlini.

Fiscal year 1999 was a year of continued financial stability for the MPDC. It was a year in which we made significant, and long overdue, investments in our infrastructure—in technology, facilities, vehicles, equipment and supplies. It was a year in which we enhanced our operational capacity through better training, continued civilianization and the more efficient deployment of our sworn personnel. It was a year in which we launched important new community policing initiatives, including a unique program of community policing training for the community. And perhaps most importantly, 1999 was a year in which—thanks to these and other investments—the District continued to realize a steady and significant reduction in crime. I am pleased to report that these positive trends are continuing into fiscal 2000.

With the new fiscal year, our Department adopted a new mission statement:

To prevent crime and the fear of crime, as we work with others to build safe and healthy neighborhoods throughout the District of Columbia.

This new mission statement not only defines our philosophy of policing in the District. It also reflects the Mayor's strategic goal of building and sustaining healthy neighborhoods, as well as the top priorities of residents who attended last fall's Citizen Summit—neighborhood safety and the protection of our children. In other words, our mission statement is now in closer alignment with the priorities of our city.

But while a new mission statement is important, it is only as strong as the operational plan for implementing it. In FY99, and continuing into the current year, we have worked hard to operationalize our plan for community policing, what we call "Policing for Prevention."

Our strategy has three parts:

  • The first part is focused law enforcement. That means targeting very precisely and strategically those problem offenders, crime patterns and locations that are causing the most harm in our communities.
  • The second part is neighborhood partnerships. This involves working with residents, business people, elected leaders and other city agencies to form problem-solving partnerships that work to change the conditions that allow crime and disorder to take hold in that neighborhood.
  • The third part of "Policing for Prevention" is systemic prevention. This is where we expand the focus from individual offenders and communities to take a broader look at the underlying causes and conditions that contribute to crime in any community—conditions such as gang recruitment, drug abuse, the easy availability of guns, the lack of economic opportunity or family breakdown.

We recognize that none of these three approaches—focused law enforcement, neighborhood partnerships or systemic prevention—can prevent crime on its own. Taken together, however, they form a comprehensive strategy of community policing that we believe is helping us create safer neighborhoods and a safer city. The MPDC is committed to using all of our resources—money, people, technology, training and equipment—to make "Policing for Prevention" work in our city.

This commitment to community policing is reflected in our FY99 and FY2000 budget expenditures. For FY99, our Department spent 99 percent of our budget, based on preliminary figures. We expended practically all of our non-personnel funds in FY99, and ended the year with a small surplus in personnel services, primarily because our headcount remained below budgeted levels. We did make judicious use of this surplus to pay overtime for focused, high-visibility enforcement efforts such as the Mobile Force and increased traffic control.

We also incurred significant overtime expenditures for major events such as the NATO 50th Summit and the aborted Knights of Freedom march. Last week, I joined Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in supporting legislation that would have the federal government reimburse the District for public safety costs associated with these types of events.

For FY99, we also expended slightly more than 100 percent of our grant project funds for the year. In other words, we had to use a small amount of appropriated funds to supplement the grant projects. This represents a dramatic improvement from previous years, when grant funds went unused.

As importantly, we have used grant funds to support strategic community policing initiatives. For example, we are funding several school-based programs through grants, including the hiring of seven School Resource Officers, creating a partnership program at Ballou Senior High School, allocating 15 slots in the Police Corps program, and providing drug and gang resistance education through the DARE and GREAT programs. Other grant funds are being used to support the Operation Ceasefire gun violence reduction effort, to establish a Family Violence Prevention Unit and to support community organizers in our Capital Communities.

For FY2000, we continue to see many of the same budgetary trends. As long as our headcount remains below the budgeted level—and I will talk about staffing and recruiting in just a moment—we will continue to run a small surplus in personnel funds. At the same time, we continue to face tremendous pressure on our non-personnel budget. For example, we have essentially spent our entire uniform and supplies budget for the year, during the first four months. This, despite the fact that our Department spends far less per officer per year on uniform and supplies than just about every other major city.

Over the last two years, we have made important investments in our support infrastructure - in equipment, supplies, facilities, training and technology. It is critical that we protect these investments with adequate funding in the future. I don't think any of us want to see our Department return to the days, not all that long ago, when our computers were sorely outdated, our facilities were falling apart and our district stations had neither copier paper nor toilet paper. We must show stewardship of the investments we have made.

In FY99 and continuing into the current year, we have been able to implement critical Policing for Prevention initiatives. I want to review a few of them for you today.

First, we have increased our operational capacity—that is, our ability to put police resources in the community when and where they are needed the most. We still have a way to go in this area, but we have made significant strides through continued civilianization, aggressive recruitment using the limited resources we have, the redeployment of personnel across shifts and the creative use of overtime programs such as the Mobile Force.

Civilianization remains a top priority - hiring civilians for administrative positions that do not require a sworn police officer. In FY99, we reduced the number of sworn officers in our Corporate Support command by nearly one-third, from 164 to 113. That number will be reduced by another 45, as we complete the civilianization of the Central Cellblock. Today, there are only 135 sworn members in centralized units that are primarily support or administrative in nature -- units such as Corporate Support, Organizational Development, Finance, General Counsel and Corporate Communications.

We are targeting another 41 sworn positions in these units for civilianization in FY2000. For every sworn member in these units, there are currently five civilians. All told, between FY99 and FY2001, we intend to hire up to 247 civilians to replace sworn members in administrative and support jobs.

So civilianization continues to move forward. But the reality is that many of the sworn members whose positions are civilianized choose to retire or resign rather than return to field duty. This, of course, means that to realize the benefit of civilianizing that position, we need to recruit, hire and train another sworn officer.

At the same time, we need to recruit, hire and train officers just to keep pace with attrition and to increase our headcount as well. Our goal is to have 3,650 sworn officers by the end of FY2000 and 3,800 officers by the end of FY2001. We have a $15 million federal grant from the COPS office that will get us from 3,600 to 3,800. But to utilize these funds, we have to get to 3,600 first. As of the end of January, our sworn headcount stood at just under 3,500. So we have a way to go, and a number of hurdles to overcome.

Clearly, the strong economy and job market are working against us as we try to attract new members. On the other hand, we have a large number of officers who are currently eligible to retire. And while the number of officers actually leaving has been below projections in recent months, we still have more than 400 officers—nearly 12 percent of the force—who could retire today.

In this environment, it is essential that our Department be able to mount an aggressive, professional and consistent recruitment effort—for both sworn and civilian members. After all, we can never achieve our civilianization goals if we cannot recruit qualified civilians to assume jobs currently held by sworn officers.

Last year, we proposed a $500,000 recruitment initiative for FY2000, but that funding was struck from our final budget. And while we continue to make do with the limited recruiting resources that we have, they clearly are not enough. If we are to have any hope of meeting our goal of 3,800 officers by October 2001, we will need to restore—even increase—the funding for recruitment that was proposed for FY2000. It is just that critical.

Before moving on, I want to briefly mention two other components of the hiring equation. The first is the lateral-hire program, which allows us to hire officers from other agencies—and thereby add experienced talent in a very short time frame. To date, we have received 329 lateral-hire applications. We plan to hire our initial groups of lateral-entry officers this spring, so they can be ready to hit the streets by June. I appreciate the Council support of the lateral-hire program, and think it will improve both the quantity and the quality of officers on our force.

The second area is the Police Cadet program. This program would allow us to hire, in a civilian capacity, young men and women from the District of Columbia who are interested in a career as a sworn police officer. While working for us as a civilian, these men and women would continue their education and training—both academic and law enforcement. Once they meet the experience and training requirements, they would become full-fledged police officers.

I know first-hand the benefits of this program, for I started my career as a Cadet more than 30 years ago in Chicago. For the MPDC, the Cadet Program would allow us to civilianize additional positions right away, while also building our sworn capacity for the future. As with recruiting, a proposal to get the Cadet program started this year was not funded in our FY2000 budget.

I sincerely hope that decision will be revisited in the future.

So increasing our sworn headcount remains a top priority for implementing Policing for Prevention. But even as we continue to work on that goal, we have been able to maximize our existing resources through changes in shift schedules and deployment.

Last November, you will recall, we changed members' days off and watch assignments, to better match the assignment of personnel with the demands for our service. As a result, we have many more uniformed officers working evenings and weekends, when crime is at its highest. Detectives and officials are also assigned across days and watches, and the schedules of centralized operational units have also been adjusted. For example, members of Major Narcotics, who previously worked only Monday through Friday, are now working weekends as well.

This re-alignment of resources with needs—coupled with the Mobile Force, with enhanced bike and foot patrols, and with more regular traffic enforcement and intersection control—has significantly increased our operational capacity, even as our sworn headcount has remained essentially unchanged.

The Mobile Force is an excellent example of not only maximizing our resources, but also engaging in a creative, focused law enforcement effort. Working in an overtime capacity on the evening shift, officers volunteer to patrol known hot spots of crime, drugs and violence. Between April 28, 1999, when the initiative started, and the present, the Mobile Force put approximately 82 additional officers per day on the street to fight crime. And because these officers are free from responding to 9-1-1 calls, they are able to concentrate on identified problems and problem areas.

During that nine-month period I mentioned, the Mobile Force made more than 1,900 felony arrests and another 5,300 arrests for misdemeanors. They also confiscated 175 guns and nearly $1.7 million worth of illegal drugs. While we have been able to fund this initiative with lapsed personnel services funds, I would like to continue this focused law enforcement initiative even after we achieve our hiring goals.

During FY99 and FY2000, we have also used new technology to improve our response to both emergency and non-emergency calls for service. Between 1998 and 1999, we reduced the time it takes to answer 9-1-1 calls from 7 to 6 seconds, with our eventual goal of answering these calls in 5 seconds or less.

We have hired 23 new communications personnel—7 full-time and 16 part-time. We recently installed a new computer-aided dispatch system that is allowing us to collect more information, more quickly, than ever before. And this year we will be installing new mobile data computers, which are connected to the CAD system, in 300 police scout cars.

3-1-1 became operational in September 1999, and the system underwent vigorous testing over the next four months. In January, we kicked off a public education campaign that is encouraging residents to "make the right call— 3-1-1 for police non-emergencies." You may have seen our posters on Metro buses and trains, or heard our radio commercials, or seen the information on our Web site. We also have informational and promotional materials that could be made available to your offices and to community groups.

However, continued improvements to both 9-1-1 and 3-1-1 will depend on the adequacy and availability of funds. Right now, emergency telephone fees are collected by Bell Atlantic as a part of the regular billing for residential phone service. Bell Atlantic also controls the expenditure of these funds for 9-1-1 service, equipment and upgrades. Legislation that would transfer control of these fees to the District government is now pending before the Council. This legislation is a critical step in allowing our Department to make further improvements to our 9-1-1 and 3-1-1 systems.

Another Policing for Prevention initiative is training. Last year, we instituted a mandatory, 40-hour annual training course for all of our sworn members. Included in this training is a two-hour class on Policing for Prevention, which I personally teach on Monday afternoons every chance I get. Other courses cover problem solving and team building. This year, lieutenants and above will receive managerial training to help them meet their new responsibilities for PSA planning and other activities.

Training, however, does not stop with our officers. During FY99, we launched a unique program of community policing training for the community. Called "Partnerships for Problem Solving," this training was pilot-tested last summer in the six Capital Community open-air drug markets. We have since expanded this training to include 34 PSAs located throughout all seven police districts. Our goal is that by mid-2001, all 83 PSAs will have completed this training and have organized active problem-solving groups. Forming these groups is central to the neighborhood partnership aspect of "Policing for Prevention."

We have also initiated various systemic prevention efforts. For example, we are working with the United States Attorney's Office, the Corporation Counsel, the courts and victim advocates to research and develop a family violence prevention model. This model will be further refined and tested in the Seventh District, which has the highest incidence of domestic violence in the city.

We have also initiated various systemic prevention efforts. For example, we are working with the United States Attorney's Office, the Corporation Counsel, the courts and victim advocates to research and develop a family violence prevention model. This model will be further refined and tested in the Seventh District, which has the highest incidence of domestic violence in the city.

Youth programs are another systemic prevention priority. We are adding new programs at the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs, including GED classes, adolescent parenting classes, mentoring and other programs geared at teenagers and young adults.

In addition, we continue to work with the schools, the churches, the business community and other city agencies on youth crime prevention. Earlier this month, we celebrated the third anniversary of the Benning Terrace truce, a remarkable feat that we are working to replicate in other parts of the city. As you may know, I recently promoted Rodney Monroe to Assistant Chief, and charged him (along with Margaret Poethig on my staff) to oversee youth violence prevention and other systemic prevention efforts.

And, of course, our Capital Communities initiative is an example of a comprehensive Policing for Prevention approach. In these six distressed communities, we have undertaken a variety of focused law enforcement, neighborhood partnership and systemic prevention projects—from aggressive patrols and neighborhood clean-ups, to building renovations and the opening of a Police Resource Center in the Lincoln Heights public housing complex. So far, these six communities have experienced a 15 percent reduction in reported crime, slightly higher than the citywide level.

In closing, I want to thank the committee for its continued support, direction and, yes, oversight of MPDC operations. This type of scrutiny is healthy and helpful. And it will remain helpful as we continue to expand Policing for Prevention in the District of Columbia.

Working together, I believe we have come a long way in a very short period of time. This is evident when you think back to where our Department was just two years ago—in terms of our operational capacity, our training, our infrastructure, even our ability to provide the Council and the community with accurate information about our operations. I also ask you to consider our crime numbers, then and now.

We have come a long way. And we have gotten there by adopting a new ethic of standards, accountability and results. In the nearly two years I have been chief, I have not asked any of our members to do anything more than the jobs they were hired to do. I have only demanded that they do their jobs -- and do them well on a consistent basis.

Admittedly, a very small minority of our members has become upset with this "no more business as usual" approach. Their unease has resulted in some very serious and potentially damaging charges being leveled against members of my command staff and me. I recognize that these types of statements and allegations often come with the territory. But I also recognize that they do not represent the feelings of the vast, vast majority of our members, who are as committed as I am to rebuilding this Department, reducing crime and, above all, serving and protecting the community.

I will not let these types of incidents distract me from the important business at hand. There is simply too much at stake. We have a job to do—to make Washington, DC, the safest major city in America by making Policing for Prevention a national model of community policing. This new mission of crime prevention and safe and healthy neighborhoods is reflected in the spending priorities I outlined for you today. I pledge to continue using our resources to further our mission and improve our Department.