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Statement Before the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on the Judiciary Oversight Hearing on FY1998 and FY1999 Spending

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

Statement Before the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on the Judiciary Oversight Hearing on FY1998 and FY1999 Spending

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon to review the Metropolitan Police Department’s spending during fiscal years 1998 and 1999, and to discuss its impact on our Department and public safety in the District. With me today are Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer, Executive Director for Corporate Support Eric Coard, and Chief Financial Officer Dan Tangherlini.

A major goal of my administration over the last year has been to get the Police Department’s house in order—financially as well as operationally. To successfully rebuild the Department, reduce crime, and restore the public's confidence in us, I knew it was critical that we do two things: exert stronger management control over our spending, and more closely align our budget with the operational priorities of the Department. In other words, we needed to make sure we were spending our limited resources where they could have the greatest impact. I believe we have made important progress in these areas over the last year.

Financial Stability

Overall, the financial state of the Metropolitan Police Department is sound. We operated within our budget in FY98, spending approximately 99 percent of the local funds appropriated to us. Year to date for FY99, we remain on our budget targets as well.

One of the keys to success has been our ability to reign in overtime costs. Between FY97 and FY98, the Department reduced total spending on overtime by nearly 39 percent, from more than $19 million to less than $12 million. We accomplished this primarily through strict management controls on overtime not related to court appearances. Spending on non-court overtime was slashed from $13.5 million in FY97 to $6.2 million in FY98—a reduction of more than 54 percent.

We also held the line on court overtime costs. To a large extent, these costs are dictated by the needs of the US Attorney’s Office, the Corporation Counsel and the courts. Still, we are trying to bring these costs down by streamlining the papering process, and by working with the US Attorney's Office and the Corporation Counsel to keep to a minimum the number of officers who must attend pretrial conferences and other proceedings. These reforms have the benefit of not only reducing costs, but also ensuring that more of our officers are out in the community, not sitting in court, during their regular tours of duty.

Of course, the need for overtime will continue to put pressure on our resources, as the Department works to get back to our budgeted strength of 3,600 officers and, eventually, to our full authorized strength of 3,800. In the meantime, we will continue to hold the line on excessive overtime costs through strict management oversight and greater cooperation with other criminal justice agencies.

In addition to controlling overtime costs, we have worked hard to maximize our use of grant funds over the last two years. We are spending these funds more efficiently, and we are exerting greater management control over how grants are applied for, spent and monitored. In the past, it was not uncommon to have different units within the Department competing for the same grants. Now, we have streamlined the process by making the Office of Organizational Development responsible for reviewing and coordinating all grant applications, and ensuring that the grants we apply for are directed toward clear objectives. In FY98 we spent approximately 72 percent of the $9.3 million in federal grant funds the Department was authorized, and 27 percent of the funds have been carried over into FY99, primarily for information technology and infrastructure projects.

Investing in Our People

Getting our financial house in order has allowed the Department to better align our budget with our operational priorities, and to move forward on critical infrastructure projects and other organizational needs—many of which had languished for years. In both FY98 and FY99, we have made substantial investments in our people, in our facilities, and in the tools and technology our members need to do their jobs. I want to highlight just a few examples:

  • We have provided pay raises for both our sworn and civilian personnel—making their salaries more competitive and helping to stem the loss of personnel from our Department to other law enforcement agencies. This was particularly critical in the area of civilian call-takers and dispatchers in our emergency communications center. As the Inspector General reported last year, the salaries of these employees were often well below those of surrounding jurisdictions. This not only hurt employee morale, but also made it difficult to fill vacancies and keep the center fully staffed. To address this problem, we raised the salaries of our dispatchers and call-takers by 21 percent, putting them on a par with most other agencies. Other investments in our people have included expanded training programs—recruit, in-service, and leadership and managerial training. In addition, I recently promoted 124 captains, lieutenants and sergeants to meet our critical needs in these mid-management ranks.

  • We have invested heavily in equipment for our officers. During FY98 and FY99, we are acquiring 490 new vehicles. That means that in these two years alone, we will have replaced close to half of our vehicle fleet—our most visible capital asset. We have also established a regular replacement schedule for our vehicles, so that we can cycle out those squad cars that are beyond their prime. One year ago, our average police vehicle was eight years old, with many of them having been on the streets for 10 years or more. With these new vehicles, we are reducing the average age of our fleet to under five years.
  • Also in FY98 and FY99, we are purchasing 287 new police mountain bikes and bike uniforms for our officers. A year ago, we had officers buying their own bicycles and accessories, or relying on community donations. Now, we are outfitting and training bike patrol officers in all of our police districts. And every recruit coming out of the academy is now being trained and certified as a bicycle officer, meaning that we can be even more flexible in our use of this crime-fighting tactic.
  • To promote officer safety, we are ordering an additional 1,000 hand-held radios this year. They will augment the 870 radios we purchased last September to support the take-home radio program I established in the wake of the tragic death of Officer Thomas Hamlette Jr., last summer. We have also purchased 3,500 new OC spray canisters for all of our sworn members. And we have begun issuing the retractable (ASP) batons, and training officers in their use.
  • In addition to upgrading our fleet, we are also making the maintenance of our vehicles more efficient. In recent years, our Department’s fleet maintenance costs had ballooned to 40 cents per mile, well above the industry standard of 28 cents. In addition, our Department has lacked a strong preventive maintenance program, meaning that too many of our cars were breaking down and going out of service for too long a period of time. In FY98, we contracted for a comprehensive analysis of our entire fleet operation, and we retained the Apex Consulting Group to assist us in transitioning fleet maintenance to an expert outside vendor.

    The result is an innovative, performance-based fleet maintenance contract that we are about to let. Through this outsourcing agreement, we expect to bring our per-mile maintenance costs closer to industry standards very quickly. By doing so, the Department expects to save approximately $576,000 in maintenance costs in the first year alone, a reduction of 15 percent from FY98 costs. In addition, we will be trimming our fleet maintenance payroll from 53 employees (including seven sworn officers) to just four employees who will be responsible for contract management and administrative tasks. Under the performance-based contract we have negotiated, the vendor will be responsible for ensuring a 95 percent fleet availability after six months and only 3 percent of repairs having to be returned. So we expect to see dramatic improvements in quality as well.

    I am a firm believer that police departments should be in the business of policing—not running automotive garages, health clinics or other functions that are outside our core mission. That is why we are taking a hard look at outsourcing and managed competition in other areas as well, including background checks for police applicants and some information technology functions. The reason is simple: outsourcing and managed competition can improve quality and save money. Just recently, PFC Associates, the unit of Providence Hospital that operates the Police and Fire Clinic, returned over $230,000 to the city—our share of the company’s profit margin from operating the clinic.

  • Another budget priority for FY98 and FY99 was improving the condition of our physical plant. Last September, the Department contracted for a comprehensive assessment of all of our facilities—approximately 1.2 million square feet of space in 19 different buildings. The purpose was to identify our capital repair needs and to prioritize projects over the next 10 years. The assessment was staggering: more than $50 million in needed repairs just to bring our facilities up to basic standards; $90 million to $110 million for a complete program of renovations and remodeling.

    Based on the priorities that were identified, we have begun to address our most critical needs, using $18.7 million obtained in FY99 from the federal government’s Nation’s Capital Infrastructure Fund. The majority of this work involves electrical, mechanical, structural, plumbing and security repairs. Many of the enhancements we are making this year directly support the rebuilding plan I announced last fall. For example, we are repairing and renovating space in all seven district stations to accommodate the needs of the detectives who are being reassigned from headquarters. These detectives require not only office space, but also interview rooms, witness rooms, video monitoring systems and other improvements. This work is just now being wrapped up in the first of the station houses, with completion in the others to follow shortly. The management of this renovation work has been outsourced to a private contractor, an approach we will continue to use in the future as we seek additional funding for the remaining priorities identified in the assessment.

  • Also in FY98, we contracted for an assessment of information technology in our Department. We are now in the process of acquiring much-needed hardware, software and technical support to meet our most pressing IT needs. For example, during FY99, we plan to acquire a new computer-aided dispatch (or CAD) system; nearly 300 new mobile data computers and upgrades to 177 existing MDCs; 1,000 new desktop computers; 1,150 digital radios for vehicles; critical assistance on Y2K issues; and an IT help desk for Department members—the operation of which we also intend to outsource.

We have been able to address many of these priorities through the efficient use of management reform money. In FY98, our Department was allocated $10 million in management reform funds. We dedicated 61 percent of that total to IT initiatives, 24 percent to fleet upgrades, and 14 percent on infrastructure. The remaining 1 percent of these funds is being applied to ongoing IT initiatives this fiscal year. It is important to note that our Department received no management reform money for FY99.

Investing in our Organization

Our financial stability has also allowed the Department to invest in the organization itself—to make the organizational changes that are putting us in a better position to fight crime and strengthen community policing. Earlier, I mentioned the reassignment of detectives. That is just one aspect of our overall rebuilding plan that is putting more police resources in the community and holding managers accountable for police service in their geographic areas of responsibility.

Last fall, we officially eliminated the four organizational bureaus that had existed in the Department for years, and established in their place the three Regional Operations Commands (or ROCs). Headed by an assistant chief, each ROC is accountable for the delivery of all police services in the districts within their region. This structure establishes true geographic accountability from the police officer on the beat all the way up to the Chief of Police.

To support this new structure, we are working to allocate our personnel more efficiently. At the end of last month, just over 96 percent of the Department’s 3,517 sworn members were available for duty. The remaining 3.9 percent were either on extended medical leave, administrative leave or indefinite suspension. Those figures represent an improvement from a year earlier, when 94 percent of our sworn members were available for duty. Let me clarify one thing about our current pool of available officers: it includes 166 officers who are on limited duty or "no contact" status. In the past, many of these members were placed on administrative leave, where they collected a paycheck but contributed nothing to the Department. I have put these 166 officers back to work—in Communications, Records or other assignments where they can make a positive contribution, even if they cannot assume the full duties of a police officer.

Among our sworn officers, 84 percent are currently assigned to Operational Services, working in the three ROCs, the seven police districts, or specialized enforcement units. [See Chart] This percentage reflects officers actually working in these units, and does not include those who are detailed out to other units. Twelve percent of our officers are assigned or detailed to specialized service or support units. In a typical police district today, 7 out of every 8 sworn members are assigned to field operations. Five percent are assigned to station support; 5 percent are detailed out; and 3 percent are unavailable for work because of sick or administrative leave or indefinite suspension. So we are working hard to increase the number of officers in operational assignments, in the community.

However, we continue to struggle with attrition rates that exceed the pace of our hiring. In FY99, we have begun to narrow the gap between hires and losses, and the average number of officers resigning each month has declined 40 percent this year. In the past, many of these officers resigned to take positions in other law enforcement agencies, a trend that we have been able to address. Still, we are losing six more officers than we are hiring in an average month. So as we look to the future, more extensive and efficient recruiting will be a priority for our Department.

Investing in the Community

Finally, our financial stability has allowed the Department to become more creative and energetic in reaching out to the community. This month, for example, we are kicking off an ambitious new program of community policing training for the community. Teams of police officers and community volunteers are being trained to go out into schools, churches and community centers throughout the city, teaching residents and officers how they can work together to identify and solve neighborhood problems. In addition, we are going to begin requiring that all PSAs hold monthly meetings between officers and residents, and I personally have committed to hold annual town hall meetings in each of the seven districts, as I did last fall.

We have also increased our investment in technology that supports community policing partnerships. In November, the Department went online with our website, mpdc.dc.gov, which the Washington Post recently cited as a good example of how government can use the Internet to further communications and community relations. We will soon be installing information kiosks in each of our seven district stations, so people without access to the Internet can log on to our site. In addition, we have made greater use of cable television and the mainstream media to support our outreach efforts. Our DC CrimeWatch television program, which airs on City Cable 16, showcases residents, police officers and other city agencies working together to reduce crime and restore neighborhoods throughout the city. This program is generating a lot of pride in the Department and a lot of community interest in our community policing efforts.

The Impact on Crime

Through the budgetary initiatives I have outlined this afternoon, our Department has made significant progress in getting our house in order and in making our organization more efficient. At the same time, we have continued to see positive trends in terms of crime in our city. According to preliminary data, reported crime in the District declined nearly 13 percent in calendar year 1998, with an 18 percent reduction in violent crime.

All of the major crime types declined last year; the largest percentage reductions occurred among robberies, serious assaults and homicides. And reported crime declined in each of the seven police districts, with the largest decrease—more than 27 percent—occurring in the Seventh District. This was the second year in a row that the Seventh District, under the leadership of Commander Winston Robinson Jr., has led the city in crime reduction. Crime was down in the vast majority of our 83 PSAs last year, although it did increase in the nine PSAs you see listed below.

PSA Increased By Type of Crime
107 +4% mainly thefts from auto
108 +1% mainly thefts from auto and stolen autos
111 +7% mainly thefts from auto and burglaries
310 +4% mainly thefts from auto and burglaries
506 +9% mainly thefts from auto, burglaries, assaults
511 +15% mainly burglaries and other thefts
601 +2% mainly thefts from auto and assaults
602 +21% mainly thefts from auto and burglaries
604 +6% mainly burglaries and thefts from auto

But even as crime rates have declined in our city, we know that our customers—the community—remain very concerned about crime and the quality of life in their communities. In a citywide survey the Department commissioned last summer, nearly 1 in 2 residents said stolen autos, drug dealing, burglaries, and assaults and robberies were a "big problem" or "some problem" in their communities. [See Chart] So even though we have accomplished a great deal in putting our Department in a better position to fight crime—and in actually bringing down our crime rate—we still have a long way to go before our residents feel safe and secure.

Progress in the future will require a continuation of many of the themes I have touched on today: strict financial management of overtime, grants and other expenditures; continued investments in our people, our infrastructure and technology; ongoing efforts to put more police personnel in the community; and continued investments in community training and partnerships. Achieving these goals will also require additional resources in some areas, in particular our staffing levels of sworn officers.

I realize that my hearing on the Department’s FY2000 budget is still a couple of weeks away. But I want to show you one last chart today in anticipation of that hearing. It shows local funding of the Metropolitan Police Department during the 1990s. In raw dollar amounts, our overall funding level in the last two years has returned to—and even exceeded—the spending levels of previous years. But when you look at our budget in inflation-adjusted dollars, you see that we are still well below funding levels from the first half of this decade.

I look forward to working with this Committee and the entire Council in developing strategies for bringing our funding up to its historic levels and for making even greater progress toward our common goal of turning Washington, DC, into the safest major city in America.