- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

Nobles: The members of the District of Columbia's Panasonic Academic Challenge Team, for whom first-class performance is second nature.

By placing first in the academic equivalent of the World Series earlier this summer, the seven students of the public-private school partnership team won nearly $20,000 for their respective schools, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School and Georgetown Day School.

Yet it wasn't about the money. To triumph over teams from 40 states and U.S. territories, the D.C. team needed dedication, drive and the determination to spend months of study for seconds of effort. They also needed a coach who would spare nothing to wring every effort out of them.

Trained as a biochemist, coach Doug Tyson demands laboratory-like perfection of the Banneker team, which he has coached for a decade. His stubborn insistence on performance has earned him numerous teaching awards. More importantly, his students have learned that they have the noble ability to rise above the dire state of the D.C. public school system.

Knaves: The members of the District of Columbia's police force, for whom pathetic performance is simply expected.

It isn't that the Chandra Levy trail has gone colder than sign-ups for children's workshops led by Paula Poundstone. Nor is it that Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey (who, incidentally, is earning an annual base salary of $150,000), has somehow managed to make his name even more synonymous with bungled evidence and unsolved crimes than that of Jon Benet. Nor is it that Internet startups have better odds of showing a consistent profit than the police do of closing a homicide, two-thirds of which now go unsolved in the District.

Rather, it's about the automatic radar cameras, the sheer odiousness of which overwhelms even the stench of the District's unsolved murders. D.C. area residents eagerly expecting their tax refunds may find that the money has already been inadvertently spent, thanks to the $30 to $200 tickets that are speeding their way. Notwithstanding that D.C. police project that this invasive scheme will permit them to pilfer drivers for $11 million annually, they maintain that it's not about the money.

It could scarcely be about anything else. According to the Department of Transportation, there were 41 automotive fatalities in the District in 1999 from all causes. In the same year, the FBI reported 241 murders in the District and 248 forcible rapes, 3,344 robberies, 4,615 aggravated assaults, 5,067 burglaries and 6,652 thefts of motor vehicles.

If D.C's finest are really worried about fairness and safety, they would remit their salaries to residents until crimes are occasionally solved and forget about fleecing motorists under the guise of public safety.

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