- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

District of Columbia Council members yesterday said they plan to increase police presence in the city at night by adding hundreds of Metropolitan officers to address concerns about police visibility during high crime hours.
"I do not feel there are enough officers in the the [public service areas]," said council member Sharon Ambrose, Democrat, Ward 6. "I expect we will see some improvement soon."
The D.C. council most likely will approve $10 million the city's matching portion of a $30 million federal grant to put 200 officers back on the streets, Ward 4 council member Adrian Fenty said yesterday.
The initiative, requested by the police department, also will help address the failure of the police department redeployment plan implemented last summer.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that the Metropolitan Police Department's plan to put more officers on the streets at night resulted in few additional officers rotating shifts over the past several months. Most blame lack of manpower.
Almost every officer and specialized unit designated for overnight patrols one week a month have been exempted because of backlogs in regular case work, police sources said.
Consequently, only two to three extra officers were used to reinforce some police districts instead of the dozens used last year.
The plan to have about 200 extra officers each week hit the streets between 8 p.m. and 4. a.m. Tuesday through Saturday was initiated by Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey in August after a string of homicides. About 800 officers, mostly from specialized units, were directed to participate in the nightly street patrols.
Last week police officials issued a scheme to fix the problem by essentially suspending the deployment schedule for this month, and resuming a modified version next month. Under the modified plan, officers will be deployed once every eight weeks, rather than once every four, according to a March 29 memo by Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer.
The memo ended exemptions for officers because the practice reduced the deployment force too much.
Chief Gainer wrote that the modified schedule with no exemptions will provide the extra help the districts need, "visibility the public loves and criminals hate: while minimizing disruptions to officers' assigned duties."
Under the new program, 752 officers would be subject to redeployment, with an average of 94 redeployed officers on the streets at night, Chief Gainer said.
Top police officials yesterday confirmed that deployment numbers have "slipped" because of exemptions, but denied it had worsened to the level described by police sources.
Chief Gainer said an average of nine redeployed officers supported each police district on a nightly basis.
"It slipped because of other necessities, and I'm building them back up," Chief Gainer said Tuesday. "There's only so many ways you can divide up 3,550 officers," he said. "I wish I had a couple hundred more."
Now it looks like his wish may be fulfilled.
The D.C. Council is considering, for the first time, matching funds for a federal grant called COPS Universal Hiring Program, which would pay for an additional 200 police officers. The grant, received by the city two years ago, was never implemented because the local matching funds were never approved, according to Mr. Fenty. In this budget cycle, he added, the matching funds are set to be approved at least for this year, the second in the three-year grant. The grant occasionally is extended, city officials said.
"My understanding is that it is a done deal," he said. "We've turned our back on $20 million in federal funds for two years now. It's about time we took advantage."
It's about time for more visible police presence at night, too, council members said.
"The council has repeatedly spoken on the need for greater deployment because the timing and quantity of officers on the streets remains a problem," said council member David Catania, at-large Republican. "The police department has mostly received the budget they have asked for. There isn't much else the council can do. Ultimately, these [deployment] decisions are decided by the chief and the mayor."
Margret Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said the police department has had difficulty implementing the deployment program, but thought the new plan would help. "They need to put more officers on the street and this is one way to do it," she said. "It will help out the city."
Staff writers Jim Keary and John Drake contributed this report.

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