- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

District of Columbia Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey got into a verbal brawl over the airwaves yesterday morning with a former FBI agent who, in a column published in The Washington Times last week, accused the chief's top aide of making racist remarks about black officers within the Metropolitan Police Department.

In the Jan. 24 column, Carl Rowan Jr. quoted a secondhand source that Deputy Assistant Police Chief Terrence W. Gainer has "a problem with African Americans that borders on racism."

Mr. Rowan then wrote that Chief Gainer had "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."

Chief Ramsey leapt to Chief Gainer's defense while appearing on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Chief" program yesterday morning, when Mr. Rowan called the show to discuss his allegations with the chief.

"It's one thing to start talking in general about problems in the department," Chief Ramsey told Mr. Rowan. "But you start making personal attacks on an individual, you better be able to back it up, pal, and that's all I'm saying."

"The crime that I commit is I say the same thing in public that I say in private," Mr. Rowan quickly replied. "And if other people in positions of authority like yourself would do the same thing, this department would move ahead a lot faster."

In a telephone interview after the show, Mr. Rowan declined to reveal the name of his source but said the source was a high-ranking official from another police department. "I'm bound by confidentiality," he explained.

Last night, WTTG-TV (Channel 5) said it has a written statement from the person who provided Mr. Rowan with the information, confirming that Chief Gainer made the remark cited by Mr. Rowan.

The writer said he continues to request anonymity for professional reasons.

Officials at WTOP said the 10-minute tussle tied up their newsroom telephone lines with listeners who wanted to comment. The radio station received more than 50 calls, beating the average of 30 calls the station usually gets during a show, station officials said.

"It was an incredible moment," said Jim Farley, WTOP's vice president of news and programming. "It was pretty heated. Our phones were ringing and ringing and ringing. Every phone line in the newsroom was blinking. Our own reporters couldn't get through because the lines were busy."

By 2 p.m. yesterday, Mr. Farley received more calls and more than a dozen e-mail messages from listeners who mostly supported Chief Ramsey. One e-mail read: "Way to go, Chief," station officials said.

Others wanted to get the spelling of Mr. Rowan's name and how to contact him, Mr. Farley said.

Chief Ramsey repeatedly pressed Mr. Rowan to give him the name of the person who accused Chief Gainer of making the racist comment.

When Mr. Rowan refused to name the individual, host Bruce Alan asked Chief Ramsey whether he thought Mr. Rowan had an ax to grind with the department.

"I don't know what the heck his problem is," Chief Ramsey replied. "But if you've got an allegation of misconduct of any member of this department, then you bring it forward and we'll investigate it. I'm not going to tolerate racist behavior on the part of anyone in this department. Period. But I'm also not going to allow someone to just be subjected to a witch hunt because someone wants to print rumor and innuendo and get away with calling someone a racist."

Chief Ramsey declined to comment on the show yesterday. "Chief Ramsey will not address the issue any further," said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman.

Mr. Rowan said he called the show because he was "surprised" to hear Chief Ramsey "dismiss" the allegations. "He's on the radio trying to turn a serious issue into a public-relations circus," he said.

He added that he was even more shocked to hear Chief Ramsey's reaction to his call.

"He seemed to take the attitude that it was time to attack the messenger," Mr. Rowan said. "I just thought the way he handled himself was very unprofessional. He was on a talk show and behaved like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum."

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