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Chief Ramsey Responds to Recent Deadly Force Series in the Washington Post

Monday, November 23, 1998
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
DC Metropolitan Police Department

The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071

To the Editor:

Police officers have the unique responsibility to protect lives, and the unique authority to use appropriate force in doing so. As the recent "Deadly Force" series points out, the overwhelming majority of Metropolitan Police officers carry out their mission with professionalism, care and restraint, often in the face of extraordinary danger. But as the series also demonstrates, when a police department fails to rigorously train and equip its officers, or fails to promptly investigate and resolve complaints alleging excessive force, it does a grave injustice to everyone involved: police officers and the public alike.

Over the last several months, I have instituted a number of fundamental changes in the way the Metropolitan Police Department addresses the whole gamut of issues related to use of force. Specifically, our department has:

  • Issued a new policy that clearly and concisely defines our use-of-force philosophy and guidelines.
  • Instituted new training, with an emphasis on a progressive, use-of-force continuum that expands the range of force options an officer has.
  • Begun equipping and training our officers with less-than-lethal weapons such as OC spray and retractable batons. These, too, provide more options for taking control of dangerous situations with the least force necessary.
  • Made sure all of our officers are completing semi-annual firearms qualification, as required and on time.
  • Provided residents with various ways for registering complaints against officers in person, via phone (800-298-4006) or mail (Box 77892, Washington, DC 20013).
  • Created new procedures to ensure that all complaints are promptly logged and tracked.

These reforms are a good start, but a lot of work remains to be done. For example, our Department is currently working to upgrade the process by which officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints are investigated and resolved. We must ensure that all such investigations are prompt, thorough and fair. Anything less only serves to undermine the credibility of our officers and the confidence of the community.

As chief of police, I have few responsibilities that I take more solemnly than the responsibility of ensuring our officers use force appropriately, effectively and only when necessary. My commitment to excellence in this area began long before the Post’s "Deadly Force" series began, and it will continue long after these articles fade from most peoples’ memories.

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police