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Public Oversight Hearing on the Performance of the Metropolitan Police Department

Monday, March 9, 2009

Public Oversight Hearing on the Performance of the Metropolitan Police Department

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

The following statement was presented by Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier to the District of Columbia Council Committee on the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on March 9, 2009, at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson, members of the Committee, and guests. I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss with you the performance of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) during Fiscal Year 2008. The full text of my statement is available on the Department’s website at www.mpdc.dc.gov.

* * * * *

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to recognize the fine men and women of my department, in my opinion, the finest police department in the nation. As you will hear in my testimony, these hard working men and women have made 2008 a tremendously successful year; not only by significantly reducing crime and closing cases, but also by improving our relationship with the community.

So let’s start with the good news. At the end of 2008 violent crime in the District was down five percent District-wide, and gun crimes showed double digit reductions across the board, including a 12 percent reduction in robberies with guns and 14 percent reduction in assaults with guns. In fact, there were fewer gun crimes in the summer of 2008 than any summer since at least 2003.

These dramatic reductions in violent gun crime speak to the effectiveness of our new intelligence-led policing strategies and the hard work of our police officers, detectives and community members. Our increased enforcement efforts in 2008 netted a 10 percent increase in the number of illegal guns recovered and more than 700 more arrests than 2007.

Our Homicide Task Force is one example of our intelligence-led policing.  This innovative strategy uses local and Federal resources to support homicide investigations and prevent retaliatory violence. The Task Force immediately analyzes key factors related to shootings and ensures detectives have ready access to relevant information. The Task Force also quickly disseminates information about potential areas or groups that might be involved in retaliatory violence so that MPD and its partners can respond by enhancing police presence, increasing visits to individuals on probation or parole, or working to mediate conflicts.

While we did experience an increase of 5 homicides in calendar year 2008 it is important to note that 10 of those homicides actually occurred in a previous year but were carried on the 2008 stats in accordance with national FBI standards. To put things in perspective, if you removed all of the prior year homicides carried on our yearly totals, there was actually one less murder in calendar year 2008 compared to 2007.

  • 2004: 198 homicides,  5 of those from prior years (193)
  • 2005: 196 Homicides  2 of those from prior years (194)
  • 2006: 169 Homicides and only 1 from a prior year (168)
  • 2007 181 Homicides 4 were from prior years (177)
  • 2008 186 Homicides and 10(1) are from prior years (176)

While the majority of our efforts have been on preventing crime, under the leadership of Assistant Chief Anzallo and Commander Rodney Parks we have also done a good job closing cases by quickly apprehending offenders that do commit crime. As you will see from our high closure rates that stand well above the national average, our homicide unit ended with a record high closure rate of 75 percent. This is the highest homicide closure rate we have had in more than 27 years and more than 20 percent above the average for comparably sized US cities.

What is truly amazing is that we were able to accomplish all of this while we drove response times down for a second year in a row as calls for service continued to increase. The marked decrease in the officers’ response time to top priority calls is yet another impressive measure of our department at work. Throughout all seven police districts, response times to dispatched Priority 1 calls for service decreased by nine percent, while the volume of calls increased by 15 percent.

Our community policing efforts led by Assistant Chief Groomes have added nearly 300 foot patrol officers to our neighborhoods and improved the relationship between officers and the communities they serve. As a result, we have seen a tremendous increase in crime closures across the board as officers know everyone on their beats and community members feel more comfortable coming forward to help us prevent and solve crimes. 

We are especially proud of our ability to increase public safety while we improved our department’s efficiency. In 2008, MPD’s Chief Information Officer Travis Hudnall deployed new technology for the officers and investigators in the field that has enhanced communication with the community and increased the time our officers have to spend patrolling on the street.

Simple technology is helping to better connect the community and police.  Community members are able call or text detectives anonymously to share information on crimes.  We have also provided cell phones with email capabilities to all PSA Lieutenants and police district watch commanders so that they are able to communicate with the community while out on the street, instead of behind a desk.  And this communication is a two-way street.  Community members get more information more quickly than ever through text alerts and active list servs in all of our police districts.  Technology also supports more effective policing. Laptops deployed in patrol cruisers and to detectives allow members to run criminal checks, file police reports, and receive critical, detailed alerts, all while staying in the field engaged with the community.

Assistant Chief Newsham has led our papering reform efforts to keep officers out of court and on the street. So far, he has been able to eliminate officer appearances in more than 20,000 cases, for which officers would have spent at least 40,000 hours in court.  This translates into a significant savings in overtime costs and an increase in time officers can be on the street making arrests and investigating crime.

Assistant Chief Robinson, Inspector Brito and the team at the Police Academy also contributed by giving us back some 60,000 hours of patrol time by implementing a distance learning program that allows us to reduce classroom time for in-service training as well as administrative time to accurately track and document our training hours across the board.

All of these efficiencies and a greater focus by our energetic management team have also led to significant cost savings for the District. I am pleased to report that this team, led by Assistant Chief Durham, was able to reduce discretionary overtime hours by 15 percent in fiscal year 2008, even while the number of hours for Presidential motorcades more than doubled. Given the fact that the size of the department has increased by more than 200 officers, this estimated savings in overtime of more than 50,000 hours and $2.5 million is quite remarkable.

In today’s tough economic times we have continued our efforts to increase our fiscal accountability by paying close attention to the management of our precious resources. Over the past two years I have reduced our fleet by more than 100 vehicles and replaced many of our larger, gas guzzling vehicles with smaller more fuel efficient vehicles. These measures in combination with strict accountability on take home cars and monitoring of fuel usage have resulted in a reduction in fuel usage over the past 4 months of nearly 7 percent or 48,000 gallons.

Public Safety is not only measured in crime stats but in the overall safety of our residents, businesses and visitors. When it comes to traffic safety, Assistant Chief Burke has helped to drive our traffic fatalities down to the lowest number on record, dating back almost 30 years.  In calendar year 2008 we experienced a 40 percent reduction in pedestrian fatalities and a 23 percent reduction in overall crash fatalities leading the region in traffic safety. 

Another measure of performance for major urban departments is its use of force. Having worked hard to end the department of justice’s use of force MOA in 2007, I am pleased to say that the members of our department have continued to display the highest level of integrity in the necessary uses of force. Police shootings declined dramatically in 2008 as we ended the year with a 55 percent reduction overall, and a 63 percent reduction in fatal shootings.

All of these improvements came during a year when the Department was involved in several significant—and even historic—events.  Pope Benedict the XVI visited DC, meeting with many political and religious leaders and holding DC’s largest mass ever at the new National’s Stadium. The G20 Summit, attended by 20 of the world’s premier leaders, was a quickly planned event prompted by the growing global economic crisis. The Department played a critical role in planning for and ensuring the security of these events of national and international importance.  But these events were just a small prelude to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Assistant Chief Burke, Commander Lojacono, and others began planning for the 56th Presidential Inauguration almost a year in advance. But when we saw the tremendous crowds gathered on election night – at Grant Park in Chicago and in the streets of DC and other cities around the country – we knew that the scale of the event would grow beyond previous inaugurations, and that we had to go back to the drawing board.  With the eyes of the world upon us, the District of Columbia was a remarkable host for an event that people will remember for the rest of their lives. I watched with pride as the men and women of MPD represented their Department, the District of Columbia, and the country with professionalism and honor. 

Although I am pleased with what we have accomplished over the past two years, I am focused on 2009 and the future.  For the Department, the key to the future is in its members.  The Department has a great leadership team in place to prepare it for the future. Our rank and file are showing their confidence in this team by choosing to stay with MPD; last year, we had the lowest attrition rate of the past decade. We are also continuing to increase the size of the Department, having reached our Fiscal Year 2008 target of 4,050 members.  In the future, I would like to see more members and leaders in the Department who have grown up in DC.  MPD’s Police Cadet Program is developing this team for the future, and giving youth in DC the opportunity to get an education and a real career afterward.  There are currently 21 cadets – all from DC, mainly from the 6th and 7th Police Districts – who work at MPD part-time while the Department pays for two years of college. Almost a third of these cadets are likely to become full-time members of the Department in 2009.

The District of Columbia faces many challenges, but Mayor Adrian Fenty is leading the District in the right direction. His focus on education and employment along with reforms in the social and human service agencies are making a difference.  Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee are working to build a school system that will help youth in DC have the education, skills, and hope to building a bright future. But those children also need to be able grow up in safe, thriving communities not plagued by repeat violent offenders.

When we look at what we know about the people who committed a homicide in 2008(2)   a clear pattern emerges. More than eight out of ten had been previously arrested.  Of those previously arrested, 53 percent had an arrest for a gun offense, 61 percent for a drug offense, and 86 percent were arrested within two years prior to the homicide. About half had been arrested as a juvenile, did not finish high school, or were unemployed at the time of the homicide. Sadly, eight children lost their lives at the hands of a parent or caregiver. This analysis of people who committed homicides in 2008 show that we – as a city and community – have many opportunities to intervene in the lives of offenders and victims long before a homicide occurs. As such, I am working with partners in the criminal justice system, through the CJCC to better analyze data on offenders currently in the system, so that government and communities can strategically target resources and improvements to continue to drive down violent crime.

I am proud of the accomplishments and the progress the Metropolitan Police Department has made this year. We still have many challenges ahead of us. But our department and our District are in a strong position to reduce crime and build safe communities – thanks to the hard word and dedication of our police officers and our partners in the community and government.

Footnotes

(1) 2008 shows an unusually high number of prior year homicides in the annual UCR total for a variety of reasons beginning with the Jacks’ Case in which 4 children were discovered dead in the first week of January 2008.

(2) This analysis was based on offenders known in January 2009. As more 2008 homicides from 2008 are closed, these numbers will vary.