- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

The Metropolitan Police Department will soon use a high-tech command center to coordinate not only its newly redeployed officers but also federal police who will have expanded authority to enforce District of Columbia laws.

The 24-hour "tactical operations command center" will collect an unprecedented amount of crime data as it occurs, analyze it for emerging patterns and statistics, and then disseminate it at almost instantaneous speeds to officers on the street.

"There's not enough good, solid tactical information," Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer told The Washington Times. "We want tactical crime mapping now. It's one thing to know statistics, it's another thing to know what crimes to watch out for."

The 3-week-old redeployment plan puts an extra 250 officers on the streets, but police officials said they need to patrol and be visible where they are needed in high-crime areas.

Police officials said the current system of passing along crime data during briefings at roll calls sometimes lets important information slip through the cracks especially between shifts.

With the high-tech gear, every officer on the new deployment will have crime reports within an hour after the crimes have occurred, said Neil Trugman, a former detective who now works as a law-enforcement intelligence coordinator for D.C. police.

"We can match our resources to what's going on in the streets," D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told The Times yesterday.

The chief outlined plans for the command center during an appearance on WTOP-AM's (radio 1500) program "Ask the Chief."

The center will work as more than just a number-crunching room. Operators will direct federal and city police to respond to serious crimes as they happen.

The system will be much like the information relay D.C. police used during the World Bank/International Monetary Fund protests in April, when officials had to coordinate hundreds of officers to respond to fast-moving masses of protesters.

Electronic maps showing locations of emergency calls, patrol units, an area's crime history and possible suspects will give commanders information to more quickly respond to occurring crimes.

"The focus will be on what we can gather very quickly and to identify relevant information that can help an officer's response or help an investigation," said Steve Gaffigan, executive director of the Office of Quality Assurance for D.C. police and one of the project's coordinators.

An officer responding to a domestic violence call, for example, will know if a protective order is in effect, if anyone in the house has an outstanding warrant or previous arrests, and whether weapons are likely to be found inside.

"We'll be able to give our people on the street real-time intelligence [and] information about what's going on in that area: who are the major players … as it's happening," Chief Ramsey said.

The information center will help with investigations as well.

After a homicide, for example, intelligence analysts can relay information about past shootings, gang activity in the area and what gang is likely to retaliate. Other units can then patrol areas where a group would gather before striking back, possibly preventing another shooting.

The center could begin operating as early as next week, but it won't be fully functional immediately, police officials said, adding that glitches will be worked out and features will be added.

D.C. police will run the command center, which will work closely with federal agencies such as the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Chief Ramsey said.

He said the center will organize law-enforcement efforts between his department and as many as 30 federal police agencies that have indicated they will sign agreements allowing their officers more authority in the city.

The Times first reported Sept. 1 that, in agreements being negotiated, as many 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.

"There's a real need for effective coordination between all the different law-enforcement agencies in the city," Mr. Gaffigan said. "This is a way to help ensure and reinforce that."

If a suspect flees into the jurisdiction of a federal agency, such as a park patrolled by the U.S. Park Police, the command center can dispatch that agency's helicopter and coordinate with D.C. officer on the ground, he said.

Operators at the center will probably have access to criminal databases kept by federal agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, which specializes in tracking down fugitives, Chief Ramsey said.

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