- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

The D.C. Council yesterday voted down emergency legislation demanding deployment of more uniformed officers on city streets, giving Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey time to correct the problem.
Residents expecting the council to demand more police presence on city streets will have to in the words of Ward 7 Council member Kevin Chavous "hurry up and wait for 34 days." The council members spent a couple hours bickering among themselves and confronting their own demons about whether or not to support the Neighborhood Emergency Security Declaration Resolution of 2001, introduced by David Catania. They finally acceded to the request of Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp and voted the measure down.
Mr. Catania sought to put pressure on the Metropolitan Police Department's Chief Ramsey to honor a promise made in June 2000 to fully staff the city's 83 Public Service Areas (PSA).
"We put Chief Ramsey on notice 18 months ago that we did not have enough officers on the streets," said Mr. Catania, at-large Republican. He added, "A number of communities are suffering with high crime rates due to the lack of deployment."
The legislation called for the immediate redeployment of 60 percent of D.C. police officers in uniform and on foot patrols in the city's seven police districts. All but 25 percent of those officers would be required to be in their assigned PSA at all times.
The other 25 percent would be deployed based on the number of violent offenses, drug activity, arrests, traffic enforcement and other categories approved by the mayor, in a given area.
But Mr. Williams did not support the legislation. In a letter sent to the council, Mr. Williams urged the members to be patient and allow Chief Ramsey 34 days to deal with the problem. The security details forced on the D.C. police at the city reservoir, Blue Plains Water Treatment Plant and at the homes of various ambassadors since the September 11 attacks has drained police resources in the neighborhoods, Mr. Williams said.
"Chief Ramsey has become nothing more than a deputy of the U.S. Attorney General after September 11," said Mr. Chavous.
Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer blamed the problem on overspecialization and "passing the buck" within the force. He said D.C. police are in the process of reshuffling officers out of special units and putting them back on the streets as full-service cops.
"We had developed warrant squads, traffic squads, truancy squads to cover those pressing matters," said Chief Gainer.
"What we need to do is get cops on the streets, instead of officers seeing a truant or accident and calling the squad, they need to take care of it themselves right then and there."
He said the department is in the homestretch of getting more police presence on the streets, and that it won't take 34 days.
Under the PSA system brought to the District by Chief Ramsey, each patrol area needs 15 officers to be considered fully staffed, or 1,245 officers for the 83 service areas. But council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said that number is actually "more like 1,660" officers, based on sick leave, vacation and administrative leave taken on any given day.
The council members seemed distraught and confused as to how they should vote on the issue. Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, seemed reluctant to support the bill because "the council should not tie the hands of the police." But after receiving letters from residents saying drug trafficking and crime were booming, he had "no choice but to support immediate action."
Democrats Kathy Patterson, Ward 3, and Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6, along with Mr. Evans were the only council members to vote against the emergency bill. Mrs. Cropp, a Democrat, and Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, reluctantly voted against it.
Harold Brazil was the strongest opponent, saying, "We are at war and you are going to tie the hands of our police chief."
"We are not qualified to tell him [ the chief] how to run the department."

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