- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2000

Police chief defends himself and his administration

In demonstrating once again his ability to turn a clever phrase, Carl Rowan Jr. levels a series of outrageous, inaccurate and unsubstantiated charges against the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), my management team and me ("Wrong men for the wrong jobs," District Forum, Jan. 24).

His column relies on rumor, hearsay and the opinions of unnamed sources who seem to find a sympathetic (if not particularly discriminating) ear in Mr. Rowan. Amazingly, Mr. Rowan's latest harangue even contradicts his own recent statements on the need for greater accountability and discipline within the ranks of the MPD and on the tendency for some people to play the race card whenever these matters are raised a tactic Mr. Rowan does not hesitate to use in his unwarranted attacks on Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer.

The bottom line, of course, is that D.C. residents want results, not excuses, from their Police Department. That is why my management team and I insist that all of our members do their jobs and do them well each and every time. And that is why I will continue to investigate, and if necessary discipline, those members who do not meet the high standards that I have set. While our crime rate is down, it is still far too high, and our closure rates for homicides and other serious crimes are still far too low, for us to demand anything less than the highest standards from all of our members all of the time.

Yet, Mr. Rowan takes offense with my applying these standards consistently throughout the department, including for those members who investigated the recent shootings of two teen-age girls in Southeast. He is not only sadly misinformed about the facts of this particular case, he is also apparently unaware or indifferent to the fundamentals of criminal investigations fundamentals such as processing and securing crime scenes (in case additional, follow-up searches are needed); personally attending autopsies, which often reveal substantial new information; and forming task forces with other agencies in order to pool resources and expertise that can solve crimes.

Of course, the man who now accuses me of "treating the entire force like a pack of incompetents" is the same person who in July viciously disparaged the vast majority of our officers in testimony before the D.C. Council's Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. Rowan asserted then that of the MPD's approximately 3,500 officers, 1,400 "range from satisfactory to poor performers" and another 1,200 are, in his words, "complete and utter trash." Mr. Rowan went on to call these officers "a clear and present danger to the public safety of this city and to their fellow officers," and he encouraged me to "be much bolder and less tolerant of incompetence" within our ranks.

While many of his latest assertions are simply ill-informed, Mr. Rowan's string of outlandish accusations against Mr. Gainer in particular, his ugly charge of racism are just plain offensive. Mr. Gainer is an honorable, knowledgeable, fair and hardworking professional. More than anyone else, he has helped me bring a new sense of urgency and accountability to our department. In fact, many of the department's past problems stemmed from the lack of strong leadership in day-to-day field operations. That Mr. Gainer has ruffled some feathers in bringing about badly needed change is not unexpected.

What is unexpected and totally uncalled-for is that Mr. Rowan would resort to cheap cries of racism, despotism and back-room deal-making in trying to explain away our new emphasis on accountability. Last July, it was Mr. Rowan who complained to the Judiciary Committee that charges of racism often surface when MPD officials try to discipline their subordinates. "Diligent white officials who attempt to discipline [their officers] are attacked as racist monsters; diligent black officials are attacked as incompetents and Uncle Toms," he asserted then. Is this the same Mr. Rowan who today has no hesitation declaring that Mr. Gainer "has a problem with African Americans that borders on racism" (and to do so based on the comments of one unnamed "white friend")? Mr. Rowan's spurious charge of racism could be written off as just an absurd ranting if it weren't so inflammatory, ugly and dangerous.

Let me also reassure Mr. Rowan and anyone else who may have any doubt: I am the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department. To label me an "absentee landlord" is not only patently offensive, it is contradicted by the real-life experiences of literally thousands of police officers, residents and members of the news media who see me out there, day in and day out, working as hard as I can to improve this department and make our city safer. I recognize, however, that I cannot do the job alone. That is why I am proud to have standing alongside me, Mr. Gainer and the other members of my management team, along with our officers and officials, civilian employees and residents.

Finally, to his charge that I "spend more time on airplanes flying back and forth to Chicago than talking to [my] own officers," I would invite Mr. Rowan to join me on one of my frequent street patrols. That way, he could see firsthand my interactions with our dedicated police officers. Over New Year's weekend alone, I probably spent more time in the field with my officers than I will likely spend all year flying to Chicago to enjoy precious time with the two most important people in my life: my 13-year-old son and my ailing, 88-year-old father. Mr. Rowan, your charge is way off base and personally offensive not just to me, but to all non-custodial parents who work hard to maintain close and loving relationships with our children, and to all adult children who are committed to helping our parents in their golden years.


Chief of police

Metropolitan Police Department


The important link between health and human rights

Your Jan. 25 editorial "Bait and switch for Africa" makes important points about the potential pitfalls of foreign aid to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the provision of $10 million for anti-discrimination efforts is far from a useless "piece of political correctness" to pacify ACT-UP and similar constituencies. As the late Jonathan Mann (former head of the World Health Organization's global program on AIDS) so eloquently articulated, there is an inextricable link between health and human rights. This link is not seen more clearly than in the case of HIV/AIDS.

Discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS only helps make the epidemic worse. Discrimination creates an air of fear and secrecy about AIDS, which undermines AIDS education campaigns, wrongly faults stigmatized social groups for risks that are shared by all and jeopardizes the already limited access to care for people who are HIV positive.

Programs aimed at stopping discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS are not election-year gimmicks but rather an integral part of any successful AIDS intervention.



Democrats have some explaining to do on Willie Horton issue

Jeff Jacoby's Jan. 24 commentary, "The Willie Horton Shibboleth," reminded me of a point I wanted to raise years ago or, more accurately, an issue to which I wanted a response, and still do.

As Mr. Jacoby writes, the Democrats invented the notion that Republican presidential candidate George Bush used Horton as a racial wedge in 1988, claiming that it was his subliminal racism that beat Democrat challenger Michael Dukakis. But think about this: Inescapably inherent in the Democrats' claim that the Horton issue caused Mr. Dukakis to lose to Mr. Bush is their unstated belief that their fellow Americans are racists. Otherwise, there could have been no racial wedge, and the Horton strategy would have fallen flat.

Because Democrats' ideas and programs seem so often to be grounded in the position that few of us can be depended upon to do what is in our individual or collective best interests, I do not find it beyond reason to suspect that they, collectively, believe racism lurks in most of our hearts and guides our thoughts, as well. While, like most anything, this may or may not be so, I ask whether this is what the Democrats believe, and I would appreciate their answer, given directly, straightforwardly and without equivocation. (Of course, if they respond that this is not their belief, I then would like them to explain the logic of their Willie Horton position.)



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