- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey Thursday criticized the D.C. Council's legislative initiative to force him to put more than 60 percent of his officers in police service areas.

Chief Ramsey said he already has 1,515 officers, or 47 percent of the 3,600-member force assigned to the city's 83 police service areas (PSAs).

He said the District's numbers surpass other cities like Chicago, where 2,790 of 14,000 officers are assigned to beats.

"The District is far and above what most cities would have just assigned to that particular patrol function," Chief Ramsey said on the WTOP-AM (1500) "Ask the Chief" program Thursday morning. He agreed that mobilizing 60 percent of his force to work in police service areas is a good idea, but disagreed that it should be written into law as the council wants.

"Having this written into law, it could have been difficult, if not impossible, to be able to maintain the kind of flexibility we need to meet emerging crime patterns," the chief said.

"I don't want to be locked into a fixed percentage."

The chief's comments came in response to at-large D.C. Council member David Catania's yearlong push to pass legislation that would mandate two-thirds, or 67 percent, of the police force be on patrol around the clock. Last month the council passed a measure requiring the chief to submit a deployment plan instead, which would put a minimum of 60 percent of sworn officers in the PSAs.

Under the measure, Chief Ramsey would have to determine by January 2001 whether the department needs to re-engineer its PSA system and whether the current level of staffing is adequate. The chief also would be required to come up with another plan to put extra officers on the street.

"I don't have a problem with that at all," Chief Ramsey told the listeners during Thursday's TOP-AM show. He added that he did not believe that the council was trying to "micromanage" his department by filing such a request.

"I should be held accountable and that is the way it ought to be. What I did have a problem with was something like that being written into law," the chief said.

In order to meet the council's expectations, Chief Ramsey said he would have to come up with 500 more officers to put on the streets. This means he would have to disband tactical units, mobile-force squads, anti-gang units, and family and domestic violence divisions a move he said he doesn't support.

During the hourlong show, Chief Ramsey also defended his department's use of force during April demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He said his officers did not restrict free speech when they detained some 1,300 people during the three-days of protests, which cost the police department about $8.7 million in overtime and new equipment.

"Our goal was to allow the IMF-World Bank to have their meeting and allow people to protest, and I think we accomplished that," Chief Ramsey said.

"The meetings went on as scheduled and the people had the opportunity to voice their opposition in a protest. But they don't have the right to shut down our city and they don't have the right to destroy property."

Chief Ramsey said the department's successful handling of the protests has prompted officials in Prague to ask D.C. police officials to review their plans to handle possible protests during the IMF-World Bank meetings in the capital of the Czech Republic this fall.

The chief plans to issue letters of commendation to each officer who worked during the IMF-World Bank demonstrations.

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