- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

District of Columbia Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that putting 200 additional officers on the streets each night will not solve the city's crime problems, but it is all he can do.

Beginning tonight, about 200 officers will take a temporary leave from their regular duties in administrative, special and detective units to help patrol D.C. streets as part of Chief Ramsey's plan to address a recent spate of violence across the city.

But police officers alone won't solve the problem, Chief Ramsey said.

He said the other components in the system including the courts, prosecutors, parole and probation officers, teachers and social workers must step up to the plate to help.

"We have much deeper problems. We have youngsters out there that would rather shoot you than talk to you. Is that a police problem? They are saturated with violent images," Chief Ramsey said.

He said the U.S. attorney needs to have prosecutors available at night to process paperwork; the courts need to be open at night so a suspect can be presented for charges; and parole and probation officers need to properly supervise offenders who are walking the streets. And social workers and teachers need to help guide youths who have no parental direction.

"This is not just a police problem. We have other stakeholders, and they act as if they have no responsibility for this. And they do," Chief Ramsey said.

"The [deployment of additional officers] is not supposed to end it all. If people think I am solving the riddle of crime in the District of Columbia, they got it wrong," Chief Ramsey said.

He noted that proper trial scheduling by D.C. Superior Court judges would put more officers back on the streets more quickly and would also save the city money.

The Washington Times reported Aug. 14 that inefficient court scheduling costs the police department $3.4 million annually enough to pay and equip about 60 additional police officers. Chief Judge Eugene Hamilton has refused to set up a scheduling system that is used by most courts in the country.

Chief Ramsey said the additional manpower will make the streets of the city safer, but it will not stop retaliatory or domestic killings.

"It is the right thing to do to bring some peace to the streets," Chief Ramsey said. "It is part of the solution. It is far from being the total."

An estimated 800 officers normally assigned to special and administrative units such as internal affairs, mobile crime and the press information office are putting together their uniforms, preparing for walking beats.

One week each month, about 200 of the 800 officers will be on patrol, with most of the additional manpower concentrated in the central part of the 3rd, 4th and 5th districts and east of the Anacostia River in the 6th and 7th districts.

Some officers are skeptical about the effort.

"There is no sense in fighting it. It means I have 25 percent less time to do my job," said a veteran detective, who will have to walk a beat. "I doubt if I will do anything. I don't want to waste my time getting caught up in a ticket hearing."

The detective said he only has half of his uniform and needs to order the rest of his equipment before he takes to the streets.

He said that he has been through past deployments such as Safe Streets, Clean Sweep and enhanced patrols which did little to stem crime over the long haul, and he doubts this one will make the streets safer.

"They come up every so often. They waste a lot of time and energy and cause a lot of confusion," the detective said. "It takes me away from my work. If it [his work] is not necessary, they should just take me out of it totally. You can't do two jobs well."

Chief Ramsey acknowledged that the deployment will create hardships for officers who are being asked to work odd shifts and long hours hours that will be even longer if officers make arrests and have to go to court.

The effort will also push up personnel and overtime costs because of the additional court time and differential pay going to the officers who work the late-night shift.

"This is not without consequences. But basic street patrols is something we need to beef up a bit. It is something people want to see," Chief Ramsey said.

Channing Phillips, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis, said there are no plans to add employees to handle any additional arrests. He said they will continue processing people arrested as long as the courts remain open.

"The bottom line is that we're not doing anything differently, as we currently have sufficient personnel in our intake section to deal with any significant increase in the number of arrests made by the Metropolitan Police Department," he said. "It may mean longer hours for the court to get the cases called, but we're prepared to do whatever we have to in order to ensure that each case is dealt with as expeditiously as possible."

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