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Remarks from the Public Oversight Hearings on Personnel Policies and Practices of the Metropolitan Police Department

Thursday, December 13, 2001
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement during the "Public Oversight Hearings on Personnel Policies and Practices of the Metropolitan Police Department," sponsored by the Committee on the Judiciary, Council of the District of Columbia. The hearing was held December 13, 2001.

Chairwoman Patterson, members of the Committee and guests ... thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today on the Metropolitan Police Department’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality of police service in the District of Columbia by improving our personnel policies and practices.

Four years ago, when the Council created the Special Committee on Police Misconduct and Personnel Management, the MPD’s personnel management system was in crisis. Not only was the Department beset with individual instances of misconduct and mismanagement; our basic systems for managing the personnel function were in disarray. With the Special Committee’s findings serving as a guidepost, and with the strong support of the Council and Mayor Williams, our Department has taken substantial steps to shore up our personnel management infrastructure and improve our recruiting, training, evaluation, promotional and disciplinary processes. There is still room for improvement in these and other areas. But I firmly believe that we are on the right track, and we are moving forward with the ambitious reform agenda set out by the Council and the Mayor.

We have made progress in reforming our personnel policies and practices because we have worked together toward shared goals. Today, one of our most important goals – and common challenges – is to increase the number of police officers in our Department and to maximize their visibility and performance in our communities. I recognize this is a priority of the Council, just as it is a priority of the Mayor and a priority of mine. Very shortly, I will be delivering to the Mayor a detailed plan for enhancing police deployment in our neighborhoods. But as we continue our efforts to increase our ranks and enhance their visibility, there is one thing we will not do – and that is to diminish, in any way, our commitment to the quality of our personnel. Through better hiring practices, enhanced training, new and more regular promotional opportunities, and a sounder disciplinary system, we have made dramatic improvements in boosting the quality of our workforce. We will not back-slide on those gains, as we move ahead with increasing our ranks and boosting visibility.

I want to outline for the Committee the reforms we have made – and the challenges that remain – in five key areas related to personnel policies and practices.

The first area is recruitment and hiring. It was not all that long ago that our Department was having difficulty filling recruit classes and was losing officers to surrounding jurisdictions. Today, the MPD is recruiting qualified new recruits and attracting experienced officers from outside agencies as well. And even with stiff competition from the other departments in the region, we have been able to keep pace with – even exceed – attrition over the last few years.

The gains we have made in recruitment and hiring are the result of a number of reforms. For example, we have made the application process easier and more accessible. We opened a satellite recruiting office in the lobby of Police Headquarters. We have made extensive use of our Website to support recruiting. And we have begun offering weekly walk-in testing for recruit candidates.

While our recruiting budget, especially our budget for advertising, has been cut, we continue to aggressively promote the “lateral hiring” program approved by the Council, using the resources that we have. To date, 135 lateral officers have completed their training and are on the streets. Additional classes of lateral officers are now in the Academy, with a new class of 15 scheduled to start Monday. This program has attracted experienced officers not just from our own region, but from jurisdictions as diverse as Massachusetts, Montana, Illinois, South Carolina and Puerto Rico. These officers not only bring experience and insight, but because their training program is condensed, we can put them on the street that much quicker. The lateral hiring program has been a real success story, both in boosting manpower and cutting training costs. I very much appreciate the Council’s support of this initiative.

On the other end of the spectrum, again with the Council’s support, we got our Police Cadet program off the ground this year. This program is providing educational and employment opportunities to young people from DC who are committed to becoming Metropolitan Police officers. Right now, the program has seven cadets, a number we hope to increase in the future.

I am pleased to report that in a very competitive job market over the last few years, we have been able to maintain our ranks at approximately 3,600 officers. And now that the job market is loosening some, we plan to increase our ranks in the coming months and years. I can assure you, however, that as we increase our ranks, we will not sacrifice one bit our commitment to professionalism and diversity. Our background screening process continues to be thorough and rigorous. The educational levels of our new recruits continue to rise – it is already approaching the two-year college requirement that will take effect at the end of 2003. And our police force continues to reflect the rich diversity of the communities we serve.

The second reform area is training. When the Special Committee was formed, there was no formal training requirement for our officers, other than annual firearms qualification – and many of our officers were not even completing that. Today, we are in our third year of annual in-service training required of all sworn personnel. These 40 hours of training are supplemented by a variety of other courses offered by our Academy –street survival skills, investigative techniques, stress management and much more.
In addition, we now require all officers to complete firearms training and recertification not once, but twice a year. And we take action against those members who do not meet this training requirement – stripping them of their police powers and reassigning them to administrative functions until they complete their recertification.

Another major reform is the establishment of a first-ever Police Training and Standards Board in the District. Much like the POST boards in other states, this body is setting training and performance standards for Metropolitan Police officers – a long-overdue reform. The Board just recently submitted its first annual report, which has been distributed to the Committee.

The third area I want to discuss is promotions. For years, our Department had a decidedly mixed record on offering our members regular opportunities for promotion. In the last few years, however, we have worked very hard not only to establish a regular schedule of promotional exams, but also to create a promotional process that our members have trust and confidence in. We just recently announced the 2002 promotional process for sergeants, lieutenants and captains, and we look forward to more members taking part in the examination process.

In addition, we have established a thorough and objective promotional process for detectives – a major gap in our old promotional system and a priority of this Committee. We have already promoted a number of detectives under this new system, and earlier this week published the latest promotional list for D-1’s. And unlike previous systems, all newly promoted detectives must complete – and pass – a rigorous training program before they assume their new positions. (The same is true for newly promoted sergeants, lieutenants and captains as well.)

Finally, we have established procedures for announcing vacancies within the Department. Whereas some members in the past complained of a closed process for filling vacancies in specialized units, we now advertise all such vacancies, publish detailed job descriptions, and have a specific application process to identify the most qualified candidates. This same principle applies to the promotions I make to my Command Staff. I regularly ask captains and above to submit updated resumes for future consideration, and follow an interview process in filling Command vacancies.

The fourth area involves performance evaluations. While I continue to advocate for a better and more meaningful performance evaluation system for many of our sworn and civilian members, we have taken steps to ensure that our members are at least using the systems we have. The vast majority of our rank-and-file members now have current performance evaluations on file. In addition, I have mandated that the Performance Management Program developed for the District’s Management Supervisory Service personnel also be used by our sworn members at the rank of lieutenant and above. The PMP defines specific performance expectations that enable managers to more objectively evaluate employee performance, and I think it is appropriate that our sworn and MSS civilian managers use this excellent system.

For my top executive staff members, I have performance agreements, much like the agreement the Mayor has with me. And I am now holding regular meetings and review sessions with these top leaders and managers to monitor progress on their keys goals and objectives.

The final area I want to touch on this morning is discipline. Of all the personnel functions I have discussed thus far, the disciplinary system was probably the one that was in need of greatest reform at the time of the Special Committee’s work. Discipline is an area in which we have made substantial progress, but where work remains to be done.

One of the most fundamental problems we had was the lack of a functioning system to capture and record complaints – both citizen and internal complaints – against our personnel. As the Special Committee discovered, just tracking how many complaints the MPD receives and what happens to them was extremely difficult. To address this situation, the Department established a central tracking system for complaints generated by both citizens and members of the MPD. We also put in place procedures so that a Complaint System (or CS) tracking number is obtained in a timely manner (usually within one hour) for each and every complaint made to the Department.

This CS system has replaced the old Early Warning Tracking System the Department had first established in the early 1990s. While that system may have been appropriate for the time, its functionality declined over time and, frankly, it was not maintained and upgraded as it should have been. A major shortcoming of the system was that it captured only citizen complaints – not complaints generated by other Department members. Therefore, it was providing only a limited picture of a member’s complaint and disciplinary history. As I mentioned, the CS system captures both citizen and internal complaints. As such, it is providing an interim solution for tracking complaints and flagging potential problems, until we can develop a new and more robust Personnel Performance Management System. This new system will track not only complaints, but also awards and commendations, off-duty employment, vehicle accidents, medical leave usage, previous discipline and a range of other performance indicators. The RFP for this new system has been developed.

Beyond technological changes, we have also made organizational and structural changes in our disciplinary system. The Department Disciplinary Review Officer (or DDRO) was moved from the Office of Human Services to the Office of Professional Responsibility to promote greater coordination in the monitoring of misconduct allegations. OPR’s offices were moved out of Police Headquarters to 51 N Street, NE – a move designed to enhance the confidentiality of the complaint process and the comfort of individual complainants and witnesses. I also created the Force Investigation Team within OPR for investigating all uses of service pistols and other serious use-of-force incidents. In a very short period of time, FIT has become a national model of excellence in this crucial area.

While it technically does not fit within the realm of discipline, there is one other reform that I want to mention – and that is rewards and recognition for our members. Just as we have worked hard to establish a thorough and fair system for disciplining members who fall short of expectations, we have worked just as hard to create a system for recognizing those members who excel. In November 2000, the MPD held its first Department-wide awards ceremony in decades – honoring some 300 sworn officers, civilian employees and community partners. Last month, we held our Second Annual Awards Ceremony, where we recognized – with the help of Chairwoman Patterson – an equally impressive array of talented individuals. In addition to these annual awards, we have established a process for presenting hundreds of individual commendations and honorable mentions to exemplary employees throughout the year. Police departments have always been quick to impose discipline. I want to ensure that the MPD is equally vigilant in bestowing thanks and recognition.

Finally, in the area of discipline, I want to address one issue that has come up – it involves the apparent misconception that there is disparate and unequal treatment when it comes to discipline among Command members, middle managers and the rank-and-file. Under the collective bargaining agreement, officers and sergeants have certain rights spelled out during the disciplinary process. Officials and Command members are not covered by the contract, but they, too, have due process rights that are followed in the disciplinary system. The bottom line is that our Department – and I, personally – hold all members, regardless of rank, accountable for their performance and integrity. Those who fail to meet our standards are held responsible through a process that is thorough and fair. As you know, I have not hesitated in the past to demote members of my Command Staff or to take disciplinary action against Command members when it warranted – and I will not hesitate to do so in the future. I am committed to ensuring quality and integrity among all members, at all ranks, and discipline is part of that commitment.

There are a number of other challenges we continue to face in the area of personnel policies and practices. For example, the number of members on long-term sick leave, limited duty and administrative leave remains a concern. As you well know, members who are in these status types are members who are not out on the street fighting crime and establishing partnerships with the community. Over the past three years, we have had some success in reducing the number of sworn members unavailable for full duty, but we continue to look for ways to reduce that number even further – and, once we have reduced the number, to keep it there.

As I said at the beginning of my statement, we all recognize the dual needs of getting more police officers on the street and enhancing the quality of the officers within our ranks. The deployment plan I will be presenting to the Mayor provides a road map for achieving both of these goals. The plan will cover not only how we assign our sworn members, but also how we use resources such as the National Guard, the Reserve Corps and other citizen volunteers.

For in this time of crisis – and following September 11th, we are in a time of crisis – there are things the MPD can do to enhance public safety and reduce citizen fear. But there are also things the community can do – by attending PSA meetings, joining problem-solving groups, forming Neighborhood Watches, or joining the Reserve Corps, to name a few. In responding to the crisis at hand, I want to bring to bear all of the resources we have – police and community.

September 11th changed the way all police departments do business, just as it changed the public’s level of fear and anxiety. At the same time, we need to recognize that policing in the District of Columbia has always been different from policing in any other jurisdiction in the country. And the unique nature of our role and our mission in the community has grown since “Nine-Eleven.”

Contrary to continuing media reports, we do not have neighborhood patrol officers guarding the White House, the Vice President’s residence and other federal installations. But we do have unique policing responsibilities as the primary law enforcement agency in our Nation’s Capital – responsibilities to both our neighborhoods and our downtown areas. The reality is that our neighborhoods cannot be safe if the rest of Washington, DC, is not safe. And the rest of Washington, DC, cannot be safe if our neighborhoods are not safe. This is not an “either-or” proposition. Our responsibility is to help ensure that all of Washington, DC, is safe, and that is what I am committed to achieving.

I am confident that we have a solid reform program upon which to build – a reform program shaped by the Special Committee’s work back in 1997 and 1998, and driven by the cooperative efforts of the MPD, the Mayor and the Council over the last three years. I look forward to this continued spirit of cooperation as we work together toward our shared goals of visibility, quality and public safety for all.

Thank you.