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Review of the MPD Recruitment, Deployment and Outreach in the Latino Community

Thursday, July 11, 2002
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management, the Honorable Jim Graham, Chair, Committee on the Judiciary, the Honorable Kathy Patterson, Chair, Council of the District of Columbia on July 11, 2002.

Chairman Graham, Chairperson Patterson, guests and staff … thank you for the opportunity to present this prepared statement, prior to answering your questions on this important topic. As a reminder to you and our viewers on Channel 13, the complete text of my testimony will be posted on the Metropolitan Police Department's website:

The Metropolitan Police Department has a long tradition of diversity within our own ranks and of working to provide quality, community-oriented services to the District's many diverse communities. Today, the Metropolitan Police Department remains the most diverse major city police department in the nation - and the most reflective of the communities it serves. I recognize that, compared with the District's Latino population, our force remains underrepresented with Latino officers. I also recognize that we have a lot of work to do in enhancing our services to, and strengthening the bonds of trust with, Latino residents. My overall message today is that the MPD is strongly committed to both of these goals - to recruiting, hiring and retaining more Latino officers, and to improving our level of service. My testimony outlines some of programs and reforms we have undertaken.

I do want to offer one caution, however: As we strive to enhance diversity and improve service, we need to avoid the tendency to "compartmentalize" police services. I strongly reject the notion that only Latino police officers can effectively police Latino communities … just as I reject the idea that only black officers can police predominantly black communities, or only white officers can police predominantly white communities. Yes, our Latino communities present unique challenges for the police, in terms of language, culture and other potential barriers. And we are committed to meeting those challenges through a variety of hiring, training, deployment and outreach strategies.

But in the long run, we will best meet the challenges of policing a diverse city by maintaining a diverse, well-rounded, well-trained community-oriented police force.

The first area I want to cover today is recruitment and hiring. We currently have 178 sworn officers who have identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. That represents just under 5 percent of the overall sworn force. One hundred thirty-one (131) of those members are police officers, 29 are detectives, 17 are sergeants, lieutenants and captains, and one is an Assistant Chief - Jose Acosta, who I promoted recently to Assistant Chief in charge of the East Regional Operations Command. He is the first Latino in the history of the MPD to achieve the rank of Assistant Chief, and I am very proud to have had the opportunity to recognize his leadership and to promote him to an executive position he most definitely deserves.

Of the 178 Latino officers, 85 are certified as Spanish-speaking. Two additional, non-Latino officers and seven civilian members have also been certified as Spanish-speaking. Our Department contracts with the US Department of State to test and certify employees as fluent in Spanish or any other foreign language. As an incentive to members who are bi-lingual, I started a program in which members who pass the State Department certification receive an additional $50 dollar stipend each pay period. So we are working to reward language skills among our members.

We are also working very hard to attract and retain Latino officers. Over the past few years, we have made a number of changes in our recruiting operation, including the opening of a walk-in recruiting center in the lobby of the Municipal Building and the assignment of a Spanish-speaking officer to the Recruiting Office. We have expanded our total advertising budget for recruitment, with a special emphasis on advertising in the Spanish-language media. Recruitment ads have appeared in various Spanish-language newspapers and have run on major radio and television stations as well. Our bilingual recruiting officer also has a regular appearance on Spanish-language radio.

Most recently, our Department teamed up with Univision and Telefutura to develop a series of recruitment public service announcements - in Spanish and English. Through their generosity and commitment to public service, the networks paid for all shooting and production costs associated with this project - they even coached me through a few lines of Spanish on camera. Between April 19 and May 9, 2002, their local TV affiliates - WFDC and WMDO - aired 180 of these recruitment spots free of charge. Our English language partners - Fox 5, UPN-20, WTOP radio and America's Most Wanted - aired an additional 80 spots combined. These PSAs were critical in promoting our April Career Expo. And we have begun discussions with Univision and Telefutura on how we can continue this partnership into the future.

In addition to our own Career Expo, the Recruiting Office continues to appear at other job fairs, schools and locations where officer candidates - especially Latino officer or Police Cadet candidates - can be found. For example, we participated in the recent Hispanic Career Day at the Reeves Center, sponsored by the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs and the DC Hispanic Employees Association. And our Web-based recruiting continues to expand, with nearly half of our applications now originating online.

Finally, we have focused new recruiting efforts on Puerto Rico, which has proven to be a fertile area for highly qualified, well-educated, bilingual officers. In March, a team of MPD recruiters, working with the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources, visited several locations and tested hundreds of potential applicants - both entry level and lateral. We fully expect to hire at least 90 new officers from this process - officers who in many cases bring both experience and higher education with them. Sixty of those hires are planned within the next several weeks.

To ensure a smooth transition from Puerto Rico to DC, we are also establishing an orientation and mentoring program that will help the new officers and their families with practical matters such as housing, schools, employment for spouses and other transition issues. We are committed not only to hiring more officers from Puerto Rico, but also to retaining those we do hire. We have begun discussions with Puerto Rican authorities about developing memoranda of understanding that would allow entry-level tests and physical examinations to be conducted on the island - to facilitate the process and reduce our costs.

I realize that much of the District's Latino population has roots in Central and South America, not Puerto Rico. Still, the expeditious hiring of these officers from Puerto Rico will increase by nearly 50 percent the number of Latino officers in the MPD - officers who will help us immediately bridge important language barriers. And the relationships we are establishing with local Latino organizations and the Spanish-language media will help us further expand recruitment in our Latino communities here in the Washington, DC area.

The second area you asked me to cover was deployment of personnel. Police deployment is one area in which our Department has worked very hard to implement reforms over the past few years, with strong oversight on the part of Mrs. Patterson's Committee. Our goal is to maximize the resources we have and to match our personnel with the crime problems we face across the city. Communities in which a large number of residents speak Spanish present unique deployment needs and challenges. We are working to meet those needs and challenges with the resources we have at hand.

Basically, our Department tries to assign our Spanish-speaking officers to those communities with significant Spanish-speaking resident populations. Of the 59 Spanish-certified officers assigned to police districts, 45 are assigned to 3D and 4D. Still, our efforts in this area are hampered by the relatively small number of Latino and Spanish-speaking officers on our force overall. We are hopeful that our enhanced recruiting efforts on the front end will give use more coverage and flexibility in how we deploy our officers to best meet the unique needs of our Latino communities.

We also have five employees within our Public Safety Communications Center who are bilingual in Spanish. We hope to increase that number as well, possibly with the spouses of some of the officers we are hiring from Puerto Rico. If one of our Spanish speakers is not available, Spanish-speaking callers to 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 are immediately transferred to the AT&T Language Line, which we contract with to provide translators in well over 100 languages and dialects - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Approximately 92 percent of our Language Line referrals are currently for Spanish.

Beyond recruiting and deploying Spanish-speaking employees, we are committed to ensuring all of our officers are trained to police effectively in any community. For example, all recruit and lateral officers complete a 20-hour Diversity Awareness and Sensitivity Training Program. This class provides officers with an understanding of how biases, prejudices and stereotypes impact effective law enforcement, with a special focus on Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander and Arab cultures. We have also provided a one-day Diversity in the Workplace workshop to the vast majority of our experienced sworn and civilian personnel. And for fiscal year 2003, our Institute of Police Science plans to revise and update diversity training for sworn members of the Department.

The bottom line: we are working diligently to increase the number of Spanish-speaking officers on our Department, while at the same time ensuring all of our officers can police effectively and compassionately in our Latino and other minority communities.

Finally, I want to outline for you some of our current and upcoming outreach efforts to the Latino communities.

First, I am pleased to announce that the MPD is establishing a Latino Liaison Unit, to be staffed by one sergeant, two detectives and six officers - all of whom will be certified bi-lingual. Job announcements have been posted within the Department, and applications are being evaluated. The new unit will be housed at 18th and Columbia Roads, NW. It will function in much the same way as our Asian Liaison Unit operates, with a focus on not only community outreach and partnership-building, but also criminal investigations and crime prevention efforts in our Latino communities. This is an important - and probably overdue - reform that I am pleased we are making at this time.

In terms of outreach, the new Liaison Unit will supplement and enhance many of the outreach efforts already being carried out by individual police districts, PSAs and our Policing for Prevention Office. For example, under the leadership of Commander Cathy Lanier, the Fourth District initiated a number of innovative programs. These include a Latino Customer Service telephone line in Spanish; a formal Latino Advisory Council consisting of eight community leaders to advise the Commander on district issues and priorities; and the distribution of "Speedy Spanish Pocket Guides" to 4D officers to improve their level of service to Spanish-speaking residents. In addition, 4D initiated a series of lectures to Latino youth and parents at Bell Multicultural School to explain MPD policies for stops, arrests, use of force and other critical law enforcement and civil rights issues.

The Office of Policing for Prevention continues to conduct community training and partnership-building exercises in communities across the District. The Partnerships for Problem Solving project is bringing communities of all types together to address chronic crime and disorder problems in their neighborhoods. These efforts are supported by six community outreach coordinators, including Marco Santiago, who concentrates on the Third District.

We continue to have Latino representation on various advisory boards and task forces. For example, Luis Cardona has been a member of my Chief's Advisory Council for several years now. Luis brings a unique perspective, not just as a Latino resident, but also as someone with a past history of gang involvement. That perspective has been invaluable in the variety of roles he plays - as CAC member, as an occasional instructor on diversity issues at our training academy, and as a youth intervention specialist. Luis Cardona is a valued friend and a tremendous asset to our Department. In addition, we have Latino representation on the Biased Policing Task Force and the MPD Employee Committee - two very important bodies that are assisting in this critically important police integrity project.

Finally, our Department continues to engage in specialized outreach and education efforts for Latino residents. For example, when we discovered that seat belt usage was generally lower among Latinos than District residents overall, we adjusted our "Click It or Ticket" campaign to include a strong Spanish-language outreach component. Our printed materials were published in both English and Spanish, and our "Click It or Ticket" advertising targeted Spanish-language radio as well. In addition, we have partnered with the Aspira Association to conduct a specialized outreach and education campaign to Latino residents on the importance of seat beats and child safety seats.

I want to make one final point about outreach: as excited as I am about the establishment of a new Latino Liaison Unit, I do not want the Committees, the public or our officers to get the impression that all Latino outreach efforts will somehow become the responsibility of this unit - and this unit alone. Outreach and service to our Latino residents remain the responsibility of all MPD members who work with these communities. All of our officers and civilian personnel must adopt the type of community-sensitive, service-based attitude that will allow us to succeed in all communities.

In closing, I want to thank the Committees for holding this hearing and for allowing me to present some of the programs and organizational reforms the Metropolitan Police Department is making to improve our service to the District's diverse Latino communities.

With expanded recruiting efforts in Puerto Rico and here in DC, with incentives to attract and retain more Latino officers and with the establishment of the new Latino Liaison Unit, we are creating a solid foundation - a foundation that will become even more important as our city's Latino population continues to grow and diversify.

Thank you again. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.