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Chief Ramsey Issues Statement on New Officer Deployment Plan

Wednesday, September 29, 1999
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey today issued the following statement on his plans to re-allocate police resources to better match demands for service.

On November 7, the Metropolitan Police Department begins a new deployment system that will substantially increase the number of police officers on the street during evening and weekend hours, which are busiest in terms of crime and calls for service. This represents a one-month delay in my original plans to roll out the new deployment plan. I have listened to the concerns of officers and command staff about how the plan would be implemented. The majority agree that changes have to be made in our deployment of resources. The question is how we go about implementing those changes.

The plan itself is not negotiable. I am in no way backing down from my commitment to have more officers on duty during the days of the week and the hours of the day when the demand for police service is greatest. A recent analysis by our Department found wide disparities under our current system between the deployment of our resources and the demands for our services. For example, while 42 percent of the priority calls for service occur during the evening shift (4 pm to midnight), only about 31 percent of our officers are currently assigned to that shift. And while more calls for service occur on Saturdays than on any other day of the week, we currently have far fewer officers working on Saturdays than we do on either Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. It is not surprising, then, that the most frequent concern I hear from District residents is, "Where are the police?"

This question has serious implications for officer safety as well. Policing remains a very dangerous profession, particularly during those same high-crime, high-call periods. If one of our officers is threatened or injured, it is essential that there be officers available to provide swift and decisive backup.

Our new system of assigning shifts and days off will address the imbalances that have been allowed to develop over the years. In the future, more of our officers will be working during those time periods when crime and calls for service are greatest: the evening shift and a new "power shift," which runs from 6 pm until 2:30 am. More officers will also be working on weekends—particularly weekend evenings—and fewer on weekdays.

These new standards for allocating resources across days and shifts are non-negotiable. However, I have decided to provide each of my seven district commanders with the flexibility to decide how to implement their shift deployment schedule, as long as the districts meet the overall standards for allocating personnel across shifts. Over the next week, district commanders will be distributing an opinion poll to officers seeking their input on whether to have fixed or rotating shifts, or a combination of the two. The commanders will take the members' opinions into consideration in determining the most appropriate shift deployment approach for the needs of their district. But the bottom line remains the same in all districts: having officers on the street during the days of the week and the times of the day they are needed most.

Some critics of the new scheduling system have described it as being insensitive to the families of our members. Having been a police officer for more than three decades (and a father), I know first-hand that family members share in the sacrifices that our officers must make in their roles as public servants. I am extremely sensitive to their needs.

I am also sensitive to the needs of the families living in our communities. Far too many of them are literally trapped inside their homes for fear of crime and violence. It is these families that Metropolitan Police officers have taken an oath to serve and protect. The new deployment system will help our officers carry out that oath more effectively and with greater safety.

The American work force has changed dramatically during the last 30 years, and those changes are reflected in the work force of today's police departments, including the MPDC. With more two-wage couples, more single parents and more adults caring for parents, there is a natural conflict between the unique operational needs of our Police Department and the personal needs of our members.

Simply setting police officers' work schedules to fit their personal needs does not solve the problem. As police officers, we still have a larger duty to the Department and to the public. I am committed, however, to working very aggressively to help our members keep up with the unique demands of their job, while minimizing the disruptive effect on their families. It is time that we in policing address this issue once and for all.

I have spoken with Mayor Williams about this issue, and he has given me the responsibility to find creative and meaningful answers to the challenge of providing quality and flexible child care to our members. The Mayor has instructed me to form a committee, to include police officers, the Fraternal Order of Police, the private sector and the child-care profession, that will take a serious look at ways to provide for the child-care needs of our members. That committee will make recommendations to the Mayor on how these needs can be met effectively and cost-efficiently.

Our goal remains to make the District of Columbia the safest major city in America by making the MPDC the best police department in the country. That's my goal. I know it's the Mayor's goal. And I'm certain it's the goal of the Fraternal Order of Police and all of our members. I recognize that to achieve that goal, I will need the support of our officers and the communities we serve. On this issue, I have listened to the concerns of both officers and community. And I believe we have a plan that meets our obligation to provide round-the-clock policing services, while attempting to minimize the disruption to the family lives of our members.