- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

D.C. Council members yesterday demanded assurances from Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey that complaints about rising crime since September 11 will be met with an increase in street patrols.

There have been 82 homicides in the city in the past 94 days, compared with 135 prior to September 11. Several council members used yesterday's hearing on departmental personnel policy to question Chief Ramsey about constituents' complaints over a rise, not just in homicides, but in other crimes, including robberies and drug trafficking.

Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he was being "kicked around like a tin can" by residents in his ward.

Mr. Graham asked Chief Ramsey and Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer what they were doing about a spate of three apparently unrelated killings in five days recently in the Northwest neighborhood of Columbia Heights.

Chief Ramsey said he couldn't give Mr. Graham an assurance that the violence would stop.

Chief Gainer said additional units have been deployed in the area and will remain through the end of the year or "until we feel comfortable we've had some calming effect."

"We can't just provide statistics, we have to provide the one thing people care about and that is seeing police on the street," said council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.

Chief Ramsey told council members he will present a detailed plan today to Mayor Anthony A. Williams for enhancing police deployment in the neighborhoods, though he denied coverage has been lacking since September 11.

"We are trying our best to use the resources we have to the best of our ability," Chief Ramsey said.

But Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, vowed not to let D.C. police officers be "whisked out of our neighborhoods to protect federal installations."

Mr. Catania earlier this month proposed emergency legislation that would require 60 percent of the police force be deployed on city streets. The legislation, which was opposed by Mr. Williams, won a majority seven votes in the council on Dec. 4, but failed to gain the nine necessary to pass as an emergency measure.

Yesterday, Mr. Catania said two of his staffers have recently been crime victims.

"I frankly blame the lack of police presence," Mr. Catania said. "The criminals are smart and they know we're not out on the streets."

Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, also questioned the chief and union leaders about why 261 of the department's 3,600 officers are currently on various medical or administrative leaves and are unavailable.

Part of the answer was low officer morale, said D.C. police union Chairman Gerald Neill.

"They feel, 'Hey, look, the police department doesn't care about me, why should I be in a hurry to come back to work?'" he said.

Officer Juan Espinal, the union's chief shop steward for District 5, testified that several women in the 6th District had been subject to harassment, intimidation and a hostile work environment by the district commander because they were pregnant.

But one accusation from Sgt. Neill drew an angry response from Chief Ramsey.

When Sgt. Neill accused the chief of firing an officer based on complaints filed against the officer by drug dealers he had been working to arrest, Chief Ramsey called the accusations "incredibly misleading."

"He may represent the men and women of this department, but fortunately he doesn't represent the level of integrity the men and women of the Metropolitan Police department have," Chief Ramsey said.

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