- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

The motley crew a homicide investigator, a firearms expert, a public-information officer, an academy instructor and other police specialists drove in circles while waiting for directions to set up a roadblock in Southeast D.C.

Some of the officers rolled their eyes and some sighed in exasperation when the location was changed to Wade and Stevens roads, just a few blocks from St. Elizabeths Hospital after the District of Columbia police officers had been waiting at the original spot.

But the ball got rolling once they arrived, and one of the officers, new to a beat, initiated the night's first traffic stop at 9:28 p.m.

The Wednesday-night roadblock or "public-safety check-point" as the officers described it to motorists illustrated some of the problems inherent in the Metropolitan Police Department's new deployment plan, which puts as many as 250 extra officers on city streets each night.

The extra officers, pulled from special and administrative units, are unfamiliar with the new beat and each other. They don't learn the area's particular crime situation until roll call, and logistics problems, such as providing enough cruisers or shirts, get a bit tangled.

Those issues will be resolved with time and bureaucratic tinkering at headquarters, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer told The Washington Times.

Open containers of alcohol, probation violations, drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts, expired tags and broken brake lights are some of the "quality of life" problems D.C. police were looking for during the deployment, which began this week and runs from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Detective Tony Patterson, a 25-year veteran who worked the Starbucks triple-murder case and now is in the major-crimes unit, made the first arrest of the night for a probation violation.

The giveaway was the electronic monitoring device the young driver was sporting on his right ankle. A quick record check showed the warrant, and off to jail he went.

That kind of arrest is exactly what Chief Gainer said prevents "stuff that erupts into worse crime."

"We want to nip that in the bud," he told The Times two weeks ago in the first detailed account of the deployment plan.

The roadblock, one of two in the area Wednesday night, also led to two arrests for open containers of alcohol (Miller and Icehouse beers) and numerous citations for not wearing seat belts or having expired tags all in about 90 minutes.

The geography of the area was foreign to Detective Patterson, but his experience as a detective proved useful.

When two or three officers would conduct a traffic stop, Detective Patterson noticed they didn't immediately check the plates.

"If someone sticks a gun out the window, pops a few rounds off and takes off, at least you'll have the plate number," he said.

That's another benefit officials are hoping for during the deployment experienced cops showing rookies some tricks of the trade, and local cops teaching the deployment force about their new beat.

His partner for the night was Officer Luciano Morales, an 11-year veteran who does ballistic tests as a firearms examiner.

A few years back, Officer Morales spent a lot of time in the 7th District getting guns and drugs off the street as part of the Rapid Deployment Unit a task force much like the current Summer Mobile Force, which floods problem areas with officers.

He was glad to return for similar work, and dismissed the complaints that surfaced after the deployment announcement.

"A lot of people were saying they didn't want to do this, but I come out here and do my job," Officer Morales said. "When you hit the streets again, it all comes back to you."

On Tuesday, his first night out, residents were glad to see more officers walk the neighborhoods, he said.

"The citizens were real happy to see us out there," he said. "They were kind of impressed."

Two bystanders were skeptical, however, and others even warned passing cars of the roadblock ahead.

After about 45 minutes, several officers noticed headlights slowing, then turning around before arriving at the checkpoint. "They figured it out," one sergeant said.

Corey Shorter, who lives nearby and coaches a youth football team in Anacostia, said police are only preventing crime at the very spot where they stand.

"Someone around the corner could be getting robbed or killed, and they're over here getting people who are ridin'," Mr. Shorter, 26, said.

"That's a lot of taxpayer money," he said, pointing to the officers. "With all the money they're paying these officers to do this, they could pay for a rec center over here."

Adrian Warren, another coach helping supervise about eight children playing in the street, said the there's no stopping crime or drugs in the area.

"As soon as they leave, everyone come out again," Mr. Warren, 24, said. "Killing goes on from 12 a.m. to 12 a.m."

In a sense, police officials agree.

Chief Charles H. Ramsey has repeatedly said the deployment is no panacea for crime in the District, but it is part of an overall strategy.

"Our mere presence will prevent a shooting at that particular spot," but it won't fix systemic problems of drug abuse, teen pregnancy and poor education, Chief Gainer said.

Those who engage in "risky behaviors" such as selling and using drugs, illegal gambling, and loitering put themselves at risk to become homicide victims, Chief Gainer has said.

"We have to protect the innocent," he said, "and that's what having a lot of cops out there does."

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