- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2007

Just about everyone supports putting significantly more police officers on foot in D.C. neighborhoods. But “strategy” outlined by Mayor Adrian Fenty and acting Police Chief Cathy Lanier can’t accomplish it. The proposal is less a strategy for the Metropolitan Police Department than a list of desirable goals, processes and genuflections toward a greater street presence.

Much depends on “customized community policing plans” for each patrol service area — but these won’t be settled until late February and won’t be operational until March. Until the “how” is clear, this is a lot of talk and not much action. Moreover, the surge in “hot spots” in recent years proves that patrol service areas apparently are not the way to prevent crime.

The mayor should call for hiring several hundred more officers with an eye toward substantially increased on-foot duty and urge the chief to soon dedicate a few hundred officers to exclusive foot patrols.

Most of the directly relevant items sound like minor changes, if that. In the 1st District, patrol officers are now said to spend at least two hours per tour on foot patrol. Whether this is even a “change” is open to question: The officers we know have easily been spending two hours on foot per tour and have been for years. They couldn’t do their jobs otherwise. In the 3rd District, the mayor showcases an “adopting a block” program which makes officers the “primary public safety liaison” for a given area or park. The 6th District’s “Back to the Beat” sounds wider-ranging; it puts officers on evening and “power” shifts on foot, bicycle and motorcycle patrols. But whether and how this will be implemented and whether it can improve police interaction with the people they are there to to protect remain to be seen.

Interesting but less directly relevant is a shift to “community-based homicide investigations” in which detectives specialize regionally to better understand criminals, witnesses and sources in a given neighborhood. Worth exploring for its own merits, this nevertheless has little immediate impact on the number of officers visible on foot in a given neighborhood at a given moment.

The rest of this strategy is unsubstantiated, small or both. Electronic forms for paperwork, “partnering” and “integrating” on homeland security, promises to “redefine professionalism” and “transform MPD’s citizen interactions.”

Mr. Mayor and Chief Lanier, it’s time to align change with your pretentious rhetoric. (“Primary public safety liaison” is a silly thing to call a cop.) So far, we don’t see very much change to look forward to.

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