- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

As many as 3,000 federal police officers from more than 30 agencies will get broader authority to make arrests and handle complaints outside their current jurisdictions in the District of Columbia in agreements now under negotiation.

The federal agencies "strongly support" the concept to let their building security and patrol officers enforce D.C. laws in areas immediately outside federal property, an official involved in the negotiations told The Washington Times.

"Right now, if a federal officer is standing on the sidewalk and sees a robbery across the street, he has to go call 911," a negotiator said.

"Why not go and arrest the guy? This will give them the authority to do that."

Federal investigative agents already have jurisdiction throughout the District, but uniformed officers from most agencies only have official arrest powers on federal property.

The new role for federal officers could free up D.C. police to focus on high-crime areas and worry less about routine incidents, such as minor car accidents, that occur on or near federal property.

The agreements would "give us extra eyes and ears and personnel power," Terrance W. Gainer, executive assistant police chief for the Metropolitan Police Department, told The Times.

Chief Gainer, federal police officials and police unions hailed the proposed alliance as a "win-win" situation for citizens and law enforcement.

"When a citizen is looking for help, they don't much care what the color of your badge is on your shirt. They're just looking for the police," Chief Gainer said.

He added that the new deal might confuse criminals, too.

"When some drug dealer sees the Library of Congress police officer walking up to him, he may think, 'Oh, here comes the book police.' But after he's locked up, he'll think twice," Chief Gainer said.

Several federal officers told The Times yesterday that they routinely make arrests and handle incidents off of federal property even if it's technically not allowed and their civilian managers discourage it.

But the agreement would remove that pressure and "let us actually do policing," said Cpl. Alvin Hardwick, agency trustee of the Fraternal Order of Police labor committee for the Government Printing Office police department.

None of the proposals would give federal officers jurisdiction over the entire city. Rather, they would grant greater latitude to respond to crimes and other incidents in the general proximity of federal property, much like the U.S. Capitol Police.

Capitol police officers can enforce D.C. laws in what's called the "extended jurisdiction zone," about 270 square blocks around the Capitol, but D.C. police have primary authority, said Lt. Dan Nichols, a police spokesman.

The new federal police presence will likely change where D.C. police officials send their new deployment's 250 extra officers each week, but it won't reduce that number, Chief Gainer said.

"There's far too much crime and far too many evil people in this city to scale that back," he said.

Several officials with branches of the D.C. Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police support the idea, but FOP president Lou Cannon questioned why it has taken so long to implement.

"It's a good thing that they're working on it, but let's get it going," said Mr. Cannon, who also is a lieutenant with the U.S. Mint Police.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is conducting negotiations with the federal agencies and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Negotiators are close to finalizing agreements for several police departments with agencies such as the FBI, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the National Zoo and the General Services Administration (GSA), the District's biggest landlord with at least 400 buildings.

The National Zoo's police officers could relieve D.C. police from directing traffic outside the zoo for special events, said Robert Hoage, a spokesman for the zoo.

An agreement with the GSA, whose police force has a huge vehicle patrol presence in the District, would make an official policy of what its officers have long been doing on their own, one officer said.

Federal Protective Service officers, who don't have authority to make arrests off federal property, have long made citizen arrests or just detained suspects until D.C. police arrived, said Officer Robert Byrd, a member of the Fraternal Order of Police.

GSA officials are reviewing how the proposal would affect "the agency, the community and our customers," said Robert Goodman, a senior GSA official.

Amtrak, a quasi-government corporation, is just waiting for "the t's to be crossed and the i's to be dotted," spokesman Cliff Black said.

Amtrak's police officers have been training for D.C. laws and police procedures, and they already patrol a few streets around Union Station, Amtrak's hub in the city, Mr. Black said.

"It's a cooperative agreement that makes the streets safer," he said.

The agreements must address several issues for the federal officers: the exact boundaries of their new jurisdiction, their legal immunity when making arrests, how much refresher training they may need and how to communicate with D.C. police.

Chief Gainer said those issues will work themselves out, and the agencies already are addressing some of them. D.C. police and several agencies have been trading radios for years, so dispatch centers can coordinate officers.

The history of the pending agreements goes back as far as President Reagan, who issued an executive order encouraging federal agencies to support local police and establish partnerships.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton revived the issue when she sponsored the Police Coordination Act of 1997.

The D.C. City Council passed the local counterpart, the Police Cooperation Act, last year, and attorneys have been negotiating the details of the agreements since May.

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