- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

The new leader of the Metropolitan Police Department's union is challenging Chief Charles H. Ramsey's decisions on the department's structure and officer deployment.
Sgt. Gerald G. Neill is calling for more emphasis on major investigations and solving crime, which he says have suffered under Chief Ramsey's policies.
Last week's decision by prosecutors to drop a murder charge against a Gallaudet University student in the slaying of a fellow freshman "illustrates the erosion in the MPD's investigative abilities," he said.
Thomas Minch, 18, of Greenland, N.H., remains a suspect in the Sept. 28 death of Eric Franklin Plunkett while the FBI conducts DNA tests, police officials have said.
"All of us would like to see more officers in the streets, but it's a matter of how and where you do it," Sgt. Neill said.
In August, Chief Ramsey began a new deployment schedule that takes about 200 officers from administrative and specialized units and puts them on evening and early morning street patrols each week.
The deployment plan and a host of problems tuition reimbursement, burdensome court scheduling, equipment and vehicle shortages have led to low officer morale, Sgt. Neill said. "Many officers think the chief has let them down."
Top police officials acknowledge occasional "hiccups" in the department's crime-fighting strategy, which they are working to fix.
"We're here to defend democracy, not practice it," said the department's No. 2 official, Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "We have to make the call for what's best for the citizens and for the department."
Sgt. Neill became chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee on Oct. 1, after defeating its former chairman, Detective Frank Tracy, in an election.
The sergeant said a crime-fighting strategy focusing on investigating the city's most dangerous criminals would yield wide-ranging indictments and long prison sentences for gang leaders.
Sweeping arrests for nuisance crimes such as loitering and public drinking may please the public, but those suspects get out of jail in a day or two, he said.
Chief Gainer said a combination of strategies officer saturation and major investigations is the best way to prevent, reduce and solve crimes. "This approach, balanced with the other things, it needs to be tried."
Major narcotics and racketeering investigations involving the FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office and other agencies continue, he said. Taking one police officer away for a week "should not adversely affect an investigation," Chief Gainer said.
"If someone took a one- or two-week vacation, no one goes to the press and says, 'Gee, we can't work our cases.' They work through it. For the most part, that's being done."
Sgt. Neill also criticized Chief Ramsey's decision to decentralize the Criminal Investigative Division, which is focused on major felonies. Detectives now work in each of the department's seven district stations.
Homicide detectives often must work other kinds of cases and aren't gaining the expertise they would gain by focusing on murders in a centralized office, the union leader said.
Chief Gainer disputes the idea that putting all homicide detectives in a single office will help solve murders. "Where the detectives hang their hat or coat is very indirectly related to solving a case," he said.
What solves cases are detectives' competency and relationships with informants and patrol officers familiar with the area, Chief Gainer said. He added that the department is increasing training for detectives on investigative procedures, protocols and case management.
The officer deployment will continue, he said, and many officers understand it is necessary.

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