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Statement Before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary Public Hearing on the Metropolitan Police Department Management Reform Act of 1999

Tuesday, July 13, 1999
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

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

First, I want to express my support—as I did last November, at the original hearing on this legislation—for the overall goals of the "Metropolitan Police Department Management Reform Act." And I want to offer recommendations in select areas where I believe the legislation can be improved.

Second, I want to provide you with an update on the PSA model, and specifically our progress on PSA staffing. I believe that strengthening the PSAs is a critical part of the overall picture of management reform in the MPDC.

Today’s hearing comes against a backdrop of steady and significant improvements in our crime picture and in the management and performance of the Metropolitan Police Department.

  • In 1998, serious crime in the District of Columbia reached its lowest level in more than 25 years. And, as I reported this past Sunday, this encouraging trend has continued during the first six months of 1999. Major crimes are down another 14 percent this year. We still have a lot of work to do, to make this the safest major city in America. But I believe we are beginning to get a handle on our crime problem.

  • Part of the reason we are getting a better handle on crime is that we have begun to put more resources in the community to fight crime. As I will detail later in my testimony, we now have close to 500 more uniformed officers actually working in the PSAs on any given day than we did two years ago. This is primarily the result of re-assigning officers from administrative and support units and exerting stricter management controls over extended medical and administrative leave.

    We are continuing to look at whether we yet have sufficient numbers of officers working in the PSAs, and whether those officers are being assigned as efficiently as they could be. But the fact remains that we now have more uniformed officers working in the PSAs than at any time since the concept was introduced two years ago.

  • In addition to substantially increasing PSA staffing, we decentralized more than 100 detectives to the seven police districts beginning in April. I am convinced that these detectives—working closely with the PSA teams, the focused mission teams, and the community—have contributed directly to both the drop in violent crime and an increase in our clearance rates.

    During the first three months of this year, with the detectives still centralized, the District as a whole had 73 homicides, a 30-percent increase from the first quarter of 1998. And our clearance rate on those cases was just 25 percent. Since the roll-out of the detectives into the districts, the number of homicides fell by 35 percent compared with previous year, to 51 murders. Meanwhile, our clearance rate on those cases rose to 43 percent.

    I realize these numbers cover only a short time period, and I am committed to reducing homicides and increasing our clearance rate even further. But I do believe that having the detectives out in the districts—with ready access to the PSAs and the community—is making a difference.

  • Finally, we have seen the positive impact of our Summer Mobile Force—a group of officers, up to 200 or more a night, who volunteer to work their regular days off in exchange for overtime pay. They are a highly flexible, highly mobile and highly motivated force that is being deployed to hot spots of crime, violence and drug activity every night of the week through September. Since April 28th, the unit has made more than 2,700 arrests and seized $800,000 dollars worth of illegal drugs and more than 50 guns. Their presence provides tremendous support for the PSA teams, the focused mission teams, and the district-based detectives.

So the news on crime is generally positive. Even so, I recognize that we have a long way to go before we can declare victory—before people and communities are no longer afraid of crime and have total confidence in the Police Department. Over the last 15 months, I have worked very hard, with the Council's help, to professionalize our Department through the acquisition of new equipment and technology, renovated facilities, better training and smarter recruiting.

On the whole, the Management Reform Act will promote the continued improvement of the Department. I support the oversight process by which the Act was created and the overall goals it seeks to achieve. I do, however, want to call to the Committee’s attention two critical areas where I believe adjustments to the current legislation are warranted.

The first area involves regulation of off-duty employment by our members—specifically, restrictions on their employment by ABC establishments. As many of you know, I have advocated, almost from the first day I became chief, that off-duty officers should not be permitted to work in establishments whose primary business is the sale of alcoholic beverages or the provision of sexually oriented entertainment. This type of work—often performed by officers in uniform—creates the potential for serious conflicts of interest and sends the absolute wrong message to the community.

This issue, of course, has received renewed attention since the Fox News investigative report on the police officers who worked off-duty in the dance club where drug use was obvious, even blatant. The information and images contained in that report were an embarrassment to our city and to our Police Department. And I am as committed to making sure that a similar situation never happens again. To do so, I will need your support of Title Two of the proposed legislation.

I would, however, recommend two modifications to this part of the bill:

  • First, the current definition of an "ABC establishment" would include businesses such as hotels and convention centers which have ABC licenses, but whose primary source of income is not the sale of alcoholic beverages. I have no problem with our officers working off-duty in such establishments. My intention is to prohibit them from working in taverns, nightclubs and sexually oriented businesses.
  • Second, the legislation raises the possibility of the Police Department assuming day-to-day oversight and management of the off-duty employment of our personnel—even to the point of negotiating wages and working conditions. A similar program in Boston turned into a bureaucratic nightmare, requiring more than three dozen full-time employees to manage. At a time when I am trying to cut bureaucracy in the Department, I do not need a costly bureaucratic function that will only take personnel away from other critical needs.

The second area I want to highlight involves Title One of the bill, which regulates the application, appointment and training processes.

I believe we have made tremendous strides in how we recruit, select and train our police officers ... although I recognize that we can always do better. I certainly welcome the Council's continued input on these matters. However, I have serious concerns that the Management Reform Act, as written, would unnecessarily micro-manage these critical functions. As a result, the bill would hamstring not only myself, but also future chiefs, in our ability to carry out a flexible and responsive program that can keep pace with changing conditions and needs.

In too many instances, the legislation mandates very specific points of implementation—details which I believe are best left to the Department and its leadership to determine. The proposals on training are a prime example of the tendency to "over-legislate" our operations. For example, the bill, as currently written, would mandate under law such details as the number of hours of recruit and in-service training the Department must provide, the specific courses to be taught, and the exact qualifications of instructors, among other requirements.

I believe very strongly, as you do, that our recruits should receive a challenging and comprehensive course of training before they ever put on the uniform and badge of the Metropolitan Police Department. And once they become officers, that same caliber of training should continue throughout their careers. But I do not believe that the length and content of training, and the qualifications of instructors, are things that should be codified into law. Locking us into legislatively mandated standards and curricula would limit the Department's ability to remain flexible and current in our training.

Don’t misinterpret my comments: the overall intent of this portion of the bill is sound. What I am proposing again today, as I did last November, is an alternative approach that would retain your legislative intent, while providing the Department with the professional guidance and flexibility we need to more effectively manage the police training function.

With my testimony this afternoon, I am re-submitting for your consideration proposed legislation that would create the District of Columbia Police Training and Standards Board. This board would include police, community and governmental representatives. It would be responsible for many of the functions that would otherwise be prescribed by the legislation, including requirements for employment and training, qualifications for instructors, and certification of officers.

The Training and Standards Board model is currently used—and used effectively—in almost every state in the nation, through their POST agencies or similar training boards. A training and standards board in the District of Columbia would allow us to learn from the best practices of these other jurisdictions... while providing the flexibility to ensure our application, appointment and training processes remain current and meet our unique needs.

My office will be happy to work with Chairman Brazil and the Committee and its staff in further exploring the Training and Standards Board legislation, as well as the other recommendations we have submitted for improving the Management Reform Act. I appreciate your consideration of these proposed changes.

I would now like to take a few minutes to update you on the PSA model and to explain our progress and plans with respect to PSA staffing.

When the PSA model was first introduced in July 1997, it represented an important step in making community policing a reality in the District of Columbia. The PSA model refocused the Department's patrol efforts on the city's neighborhoods. It gave teams of PSA officers and supervisors greater accountability for fighting crime in their assigned areas. And it established new ways for police and community to work together to solve problems. With the recent restructuring of the Department, the PSAs remain crucial to our strategy of community policing, called "Policing for Prevention."

From the beginning, however, there were questions about how the PSA boundaries were set, how manpower allocations were determined, and just how many sworn members were actually working in the PSAs. In 1997, according to a baseline analysis done by Booz-Allen & Hamilton, 808 sworn officers were assigned to the PSAs. But in reality, only 500 of those officers were actually working in the PSAs on any one day ... once you factored out those officers who were on regular days off or vacation. This discrepancy between the stated number of officers assigned to the PSAs and the actual number working caused legitimate confusion and concern among residents and community leaders alike.

Our latest analysis shows we have made considerable progress in PSA staffing compared with two years ago. Today, we have 1,584 officers assigned to the PSAs—nearly twice the number the Department had in July 1997. And on any given day, over the three shifts, we now have 978 officers working in the PSAs.

Keep in mind that we have achieved these increases in PSA coverage at a time when the overall size of our force has shrunk from 3,600 to just over 3,500 officers. As I mentioned, these improvements have come about through aggressively reassigning members from administrative and support units to the PSAs and by imposing stricter management controls that have reduced the number of officers on details and on extended medical and administrative leave.

While I am pleased with our progress to date, my goal is to continue increasing the number of officers assigned to, and working in, the PSAs and specialized operational units, as additional personnel are hired. This will be done by hiring 190 civilians to replace sworn members in areas such as police district support, emergency communications, central cell block, fleet maintenance, and human services.

It will also require that we bring our sworn strength up to its authorized level of 3,800—through even more aggressive recruiting and the speedy implementation of the lateral-entry program the Council approved earlier today.

Increasing the number of officers on the PSAs is especially important because our latest analysis shows that the Department currently has a "relief factor" of 1.5. The relief factor refers to the number of officers needed to cover a seven-day-a-week assignment for one shift on a PSA, factoring in days off, vacation, and holidays. A relief factor of 1.5 means that we must actually have one and one-half officers to fill each PSA assignment.

As the Department continues to increase the number of officers on the PSAs, we are also working to ensure that our PSA resources are being used as efficiently as possible. The original PSA model allowed a great deal of managerial discretion, including the ability to set work schedules and priorities. The result was that a large percentage of PSA officers ended up working the day shift, and many had some or all of the weekend as their regular days off.

The problem, of course, is that both crime and calls for service usually peak during the evening hours, and are especially high on Friday evening through Sunday morning. What we found, however, was that these high-volume periods were often the very times when many of our PSA officers were not working because of shift assignments or regular days off. Even with more officers on the PSAs, this imbalance led many residents to ask the simple question, "Where are the police?"

All that is about to change. To make sure that our officers are working during high-crime and high- demand periods, I am requiring that every member of Operational Services have a set tour of duty and set days off. Earlier this year, we allowed members to vote on whether they wanted fixed or rotating days off, and they overwhelmingly selected fixed days off. For the PSAs, having set tours of duty and set days off will mean one thing: the percentage of PSA officers and sergeants working a particular shift, with particular days off, will be balanced with the workload requirements.

Our plans are to divide the shifts as follows: 30 percent on days, 32 percent on evenings, 22 percent on midnights and 16 percent on a "power shift" that crosses two regular shift periods. Fewer than one in five officers will have Fridays and Saturdays off. And about one in four will have Sundays and Mondays off. This will help ensure that we have sufficient numbers of officers working during the critical weekend period. Officers will be allowed to identify their preferences for a tour and days off, and, if necessary, assignments will be based on seniority.

I recognize that being more efficient in distributing PSA officers across shifts and days off, may necessitate some adjustments in shift or PSA assignments for some officers. The minor disruptions that may occur in some PSAs are an unfortunate, but I believe necessary, by-product of our overriding need to ensure that we have enough officers working when they are needed most—when crime and calls for service are at their highest.

To support these changes in manpower allocation, my Office of Organizational Development will be developing, over the next few months, a more sophisticated manpower allocation model that will help determine the number of officers required on each PSA. The original allocation model from Booz-Allen looked only at priority calls and serious, "Index" crimes. A formula was created to identify each PSA's proportion of the total serious crime and calls for service in the District as a whole. So if a PSA accounted for 1.3 percent of the weighted formula of crimes and calls for service, then that PSA was to receive 1.3 percent of the staff resources dedicated to PSAs.

This approach was flawed because it did not take into consideration offenses such as prostitution or drugs, which require a great deal of police resources and which generate a great deal of community concern. Nor did the original formula factor in the time required to respond to different calls for service or engage in community policing. This approach merely distributed a given number of officers—divided up the pie, if you will. But it did not question how large the pie needed to be in the first place—that is, how many officers are realistically needed to respond to and prevent crime in the PSAs.

The project team will be working to identify realistic numbers for PSA strength based on the work being done and the time it takes to do that work. I will keep the Committee informed of our progress in developing the new manpower allocation model and any other changes we intend to make in the PSA model.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present these comments on the Management Reform Act and to update you on the PSA model. The Metropolitan Police Department continues to move forward in our efforts to professionalize the Department and become more effective by strengthening leadership, staffing and resources on the PSAs.

The overall thrust of the Management Reform Act certainly supports these ongoing efforts. I look forward to working with the Committee and the entire Council to further enhance this important piece of legislation, as we also work together to enhance community policing in our city.