- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The D.C. police union made its case clear on Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey this week, holding an impromptu vote not to renew his employment contract.
On Tuesday evening, what was to be a standard summertime union meeting, which usually attracts an average of 25 officers, according to police sources, turned into a raucous forum criticizing the chief's recent actions. It ended with a vote to oppose the renewal of Chief Ramsey's employment contract, which is "just short of a vote of no confidence," said Sgt. Gerald G. Neill, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police/Metropolitan Police Labor Committee.
"The e-mail investigation, which was overblown, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Justice and the redistribution of overtime from beat officers to higher commanding officials were the most serious issues raised," said Gary Hankins, labor committee spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
"I regret that serious concerns with morale throughout the police department prompted the FOP labor committee to take this unprecedented action," said D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, who chairs the council's judiciary committee.
Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, agrees with the FOP on the overtime issue, as she has halted overtime pay to senior managers, but she is not confident that Chief Ramsey should be removed. "She will conduct further hearings in the fall on these issues within the MPD," said Mrs. Patterson's spokeswoman Jo Anne Ginsberg.
The FOP labor committee's disdain of Chief Ramsey is focused mostly on the MOA and his poor working relationship with the union. He often entered into agreements and created protocols without union involvement, Sgt. Neill said.
"Our members are particularly upset with Ramsey's decision to enter into an unprecedented voluntary MOA with the Department of Justice, which gives them direct authority over the MPD's use of force, our canine use and our personnel and management records," he said.
The FOP says it also believes the MOA's definition of use of force is too strict, calling for an investigation anytime an officer draws his or her weapon.
"Drawing a weapon is not a use of force; it is a show of force. Officers working in busy districts may pull their gun more than once a night to be prepared for a potentially dangerous incident," Sgt. Neill said.
"This MOA handcuffs our officers and puts not only them, but the citizens, at risk," he said.
Chief Ramsey said the union simply does not understand the importance of the MOA, nor is it willing to see the progress that has been made since he arrived.
"Two years ago, we were one of the worst police agencies in the nation in terms of use of force. Since then we have made protocols and oversight that decreased our use of force by 78 percent," Chief Ramsey said yesterday at the Clergy-Police Community Partnership's block party in the 4100 block of First Street SE.
The chief argued that if MPD had not voluntarily gone into an agreement with the Department of Justice, "we would have been forced into a consent agreement, which would have been a lot worse."
The FOP also is upset with the chief for calling his officers and union representatives "racist and incompetent" during the e-mail investigation scandal. Police officials, who checked 4 million messages in the audit, flagged 27,000 for containing "key word hits."
The ongoing internal audit in March revealed that some police officers were sending racist, sexist and other offensive e-mails from squad car to squad car. Several weeks ago, Chief Ramsey revoked the police powers of the first 20 officers caught.
"He has embarrassed the department and made us a laughingstock around the nation with his disparaging comments during that investigation in which it turned out that only 12 officers were really a problem," Sgt. Neil said.
"That is ridiculous; I have never called anyone racist or incompetent; I only discussed what was in the e-mails," Chief Ramsey said.

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