- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

When District leaders began searching for a new police chief three years ago, they faced several critical issues. While crime rates were certainly horrific, poor planning, low-tech operations, poor training and lousy recruiting and low morale were significant problems as well. Essentially, though, what troubled the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was not the lack of money, although that was the perception at the time. The real problem was how the money was spent.

It is true that MPD does need more money for operations, capital improvements, training and technology. After all, Officer Friendly needs far more than call boxes, whistles and six-shooters to fight crime these days. Qualified law-enforcement officers are as much in demand today as qualified teachers.

"We were able to turn around recruiting in a very short time," Chief Ramsey told this page on Tuesday. "Our goal is get back up to 3,800 officers and to continue to move forward. We did that without going a dime over budget for FY 2000."

That was not easy amid preparations for Y2K, 50th anniversary celebrations for the United Nations, potential chaos during IMF/World Bank protests, the threat of rising homicide, robbery and burglary rates, and a drug market that continues to lower the quality of life in some neighborhoods. Also, MPD is under constant pressure to solve murders that occurred six, eight even 10 years ago, when crack ruled the underworld.

"We are rebuilding and improving," the chief said, "shoring up criminal investigations and the capacity to revisit old cases. We need and we want to add more detectives, including in some specialized areas, such as child abuse and neglect. One of the problems is our automated systems, many of our systems, are a little behind the curve. We're going to work to live within our budget this year as we did last (fiscal year). We're still going to have our hands full in the coming year."

Indeed they will. IMF-World Bank protesters are planning to hit the nation's capital twice in 2001. The Bush inauguration in January is expected to draw record crowds. The pro-life and pro-choice activists and the gay-rights activists are planning their annual treks. With all of this, police are still expected to be ever-vigilant regarding the usual gun-toters, rogues and nefarious creatures.

Managing law-enforcement takes extra planning, extra manpower and extra resources. For example, MPD spent $8 million on the IMF-World protest alone, including $6 million on overtime. The federal government, however, reimbursed the city for $4.5 million of those costs. Seems unreasonable to expect the Metropolitan Police Department to do more with less.

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