- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2000

Seven months ago, it seemed as though the rising chorus of disenchantment with the work of Police Chief Charles Ramsey and Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer was premature. Some of us thought that Mr. Ramsey deserved more time to get comfortable in his job. We hoped that he would take the advice he was getting from many quarters to rein in Mr. Gainer, whose abrasive and pompous style, profane tirades, and questionable judgment resulted in a vote of no confidence from the rank and file, derision from officials, and citizens groups that have banned him from their meetings. Time has taught me that I was wrong.
Today, the police chief continues to spend more time on airplanes flying back and forth to Chicago than talking to his own officers. He still leaves the running of the department to Mr. Gainer, a man who lacks human relations skills and displays intolerance of original thoughts from subordinates that differ in any way from his own. He also has a problem with African Americans that borders on racism, having sarcastically told a white friend of mine that promoting black officials is a necessary evil because "we have to give them their little piece of the world."
Readers may not recall that the man originally chosen to be the new chief was Richard Pennington of New Orleans. Former Control Board Member Stephen Harlan's friend, Sen. Lauch Faircloth, told Mr. Pennington to stay in New Orleans, opening the door for Mr. Harlan's "Plan B" choice. As a former member of the selection committee that hired Mr. Ramsey, I can tell you that it was Mr. Gainer, not Mr. Ramsey, whom Mr. Harlan was originally pushing behind the scenes for chief of police. Only after realizing that no white candidate would be seriously considered, did he bring Mr. Ramsey into the picture. Having both men suddenly appear at the helm of the department has raised questions about who is really running this outfit, and what back room deal may have been cut, particularly in light of Mr. Ramsey's hands-off style of management.
In this case, two is not better than one. Rather than leaders and mentors at the top, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has been saddled with an absentee landlord, and a despot who rules by fear and intimidation because he brings little else to the table, golden resume not withstanding.
The problems of the MPD are serious and complex, and the personnel problems are enormous. Messrs. Ramsey and Gainer will not solve those problems by treating the entire force like a pack of incompetents. Rolling heads is easy. Rolling the right heads while teaching and mentoring is a true test of leadership. The Metropolitan Police Department needs a Coach Phil Jackson, but they've been given a two-headed Coach P.J. Carlisimo. Many are the officers and officials on the department who would like to reprise the role of Latrell Sprewell.
Mr. Gainer has lost the respect of the police force, from top to bottom, and he is taking Mr. Ramsey, his loyal protector, down with him. They now seem content merely preserving their own reputations until they can move to greener pastures by (1) making bogus pronouncements of success, and (2) scoring cheap points by publicly scapegoating their own officers and officials, with or without justification. The idea here is to look strong and decisive in the media. Take these latest two examples:
On Jan. 1, 2000, the chief was prominently displayed in The Washington Post, taking credit for a 66 percent drop in police shootings during 1999, as compared to 1998. He credited his new lethal-force policy and expanded training for the reduction. The chief cited 32 police shootings in 1998 and 11 for 1999. Nonsense. In each year, the police fired their weapons approximately 60 times, but the public would have no way of knowing that the numbers being massaged are in those who were hit by the gunfire. The "reduction" is actually in MPD marksmanship.
But the worst case of media grandstanding came in the recent case involving the murder of two teen-age girls. Ramsey and Gainer publicly trashed the reputations of several fine officers and officials by screaming "incompetence" in a situation that is routine in law enforcement everywhere. They were all over the news castigating crime-scene investigators for not finding all of the shell casings on the evening of the shootings, even though it is routine to re-search a night crime scene in daylight for additional evidence. Sometimes it will be searched several times. This one was searched a third time without public fanfare. The detectives were savaged by Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Gainer for not attending a victim's autopsy. However, with the cause of death clearly established and the evidence accounted for, the attendance issue was of little importance.
The clear implication was that the detectives were shirking their duty. In reality, they were diverted from the autopsy to an emergency meeting with the FBI on leads that will ultimately close the case. Messrs. Ramsey and Gainer, being too aloof to even talk to the detectives, never asked before ripping them in the press and calling for yet another federal task force to solve a case that was already well on the way to closure.
To add insult to injury, a fine detective lieutenant was sacrificed at the public altar for failing to supervise the crime scene, despite the fact that a field commander assigned to Mr. Gainer was the ranking official on the scene. This shameless media gimmick may come back to haunt them. If I were the defense attorney when this case eventually comes to trial, I would subpoena Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Gainer as my expert witnesses to testify against the work of their own officers. They have given the defense its best chance of undermining the work of skilled and dedicated officers. Those guys deserve an apology they will never get.
This is not a case of the "agents of change" fighting the status quo. Tremendous harm is being done to this department because of the inability of Messrs. Ramsey and Gainer to manage and lead people the way they manage and lead the news. Ironically, they have accomplished what no other chief has done. They have united both officials and the rank and file. Unfortunately, they are united in their dismay over the behavior of their leaders.

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