- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

The chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia yesterday said he wants the city's top criminal justice officials to find a way to reduce the amount of wasted time police officers spend in court.
"If this problem has been around for 20 years … it may not go away," said Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican. "I want to be sure you are talking to each other."
He made his statement during a subcommittee oversight hearing on the city's public safety operations.
The subcommittee began examining the court overtime in the wake of a study by the Council for Court Excellence that found that 75 percent of police court overtime is unnecessary.
The study determined that the U.S. attorney and the D.C. Superior Court officials need to manage their cases better so that officers are not called to court when they are not needed.
Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus G. King III, U.S. Attorney Wilma A. Lewis and police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said they have begun talking more about finding a resolution to the problem since the report was completed last month.
"We have to look at some of the ways … to save money and not affect the justice system," Chief Judge King said.
Margret Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety, said that the Metropolitan Police Department is the only agency that is affected, and that the courts and prosecutors do not have an incentive to change.
"What will be required to crack this nut is a will [of the criminal justice official] to solve this," said Mrs. Kellems.
The Council for Court Excellence study found that overtime could be reduced if officers did not have spend so much time waiting to file criminal charges with prosecutors.
The D.C. Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which is composed of the city's criminal justice officials, commissioned the study last year. The Washington Times reported in June 1999 that poor trial management by D.C. Superior Court judges and prosecutors keep police officers sitting in the hallways on overtime pay.
Currently, officers who make arrests at night must wait for the U.S. Attorney's Office to open the next morning to present the charging documents to a prosecutor.
On Monday, the D.C. Corporation Counsel began an "officerless" filing process that allows officers to complete paperwork for some misdemeanor charges at night and then forward it to the counsel's office.
Miss Lewis said the U.S. Attorney's Office, which prosecutes felonies and major misdemeanors, could adopt that program after any problems are worked out with the Corporation Counsel.
She said changing the procedures like an "officerless" papering process or holding arraignment courts at night would have to be studied first to determine if they are feasible and cost-effective.

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