- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

D.C. police officers who work the night shift only to return during the day to handle paperwork would get a much-welcomed break under a proposed new "night-papering" program.
The "night-papering" pilot program, which just wrapped up a three-month trial run in the 3rd District, would put a prosecutor on overnight duty to formally charge suspects a move officials say will reduce the Metropolitan Police Department's overtime costs and keep more officers on the street when they are needed most.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey says the program would save the department $1.4 million and 31,000 man-hours a year if it were set up in all seven police districts.
When police officers arrest a suspect at night, they usually must wait until 8 a.m. to meet with a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office, who then decides whether the evidence is sufficient to file charges.
"The current system is a disincentive for people to make an arrest. They've got to turn around and go to court after working their shift," Chief Ramsey said. "It is like working 24 hours. [With night papering], they can get it done during their tour of duty.
U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. said the program, which was operated in the 3rd District from Nov. 6 until last Saturday, will have to be evaluated before he can decide whether to implement it throughout the District.
"We are certainly taking a hard look at it," Mr. Howard said in a prepared statement. "The continued viability of the project depends upon its overall efficiency and cost effectiveness for the three entities involved with the project."
Brad Weinsheimer, chief of the Superior Court grand jury section of the U.S. Attorney's Office, ran the program. He said night papering would benefit the police department, but the U.S. attorney would have to hire six paralegals and one to three assistant prosecutors for it to function properly.
He says night papering has other benefits in addition to saving the police department overtime costs. If prosecutors determine evidence is insufficient, he said, the process allows suspects to be released immediately instead of being held overnight and transported to hearings.
Night papering also puts prosecutors in contact with officers more quickly and information from witnesses is fresher, Mr. Weinsheimer said.
A study last year by the Council for Court Excellence noted night papering as one of many ways to cut police overtime. The study said the courts need to do a better job of scheduling cases because 75 percent of the officers who are subpoenaed to testify never do.
The Washington Times reported in June 1999 that poor trial management by D.C. Superior Court judges and prosecutors keep one-quarter of the police force sitting in the hallways and drawing overtime.

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