- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

The Metropolitan Police Department has quickly returned scores of damaged police cars to service following reports in The Washington Times about a backlog of vehicles awaiting repair at the department's garage.
More than 200 police cars were crowded onto the parking lots of the department's garage at Montana and West Virginia avenues NE last week; yesterday about 120 cars were awaiting repair at the garage.
Police officials have authorized the repair of about 20 wrecked vehicles, some of which already have been towed to repair shops, according to department sources familiar with the maintenance of the department's fleet of 1,300 vehicles.
Mechanics were directed to work overtime over the weekend to reduce the backlog of vehicles, said department sources, adding that police officials reacted strongly to a report in The Times that said 20 percent of the department's 700 marked cars were awaiting repair at the garage.
"It stirred up a hornet's nest," a department source said about the article. "Out of nowhere they put 20 cars in the body shop, and they were working overtime Saturday down at the shop."
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday said that overtime for mechanics was authorized, and that some of the cars with minor body damage were sent out for repairs. He said his department is trying to determine if the cars with major body damage will be repaired.
"We authorized the overtime," Chief Ramsey said. "If it is a major ticket item, some of them we aren't going to fix."
One thing that helped clear out the garage's parking lots was an order for specialized units and the seven police districts to pick up repaired cars ready to return to the streets, he said.
"We had 25 cars in for scheduled repairs [that were completed]. We made them come and get them," Chief Ramsey said.
A department source said many of the cars picked up were not assigned to the police districts but to specialized units, such as the office of professional responsibility.
The marked vehicles need the most repairs because they are used 24 hours a day for patrols while the unmarked vehicles are operated less rigorously by detectives, civilian employees and department officials.
The Times reported that officers said they were reluctant to turn in their cars for minor repairs for fear of never seeing them again, adding that the backlog of repairs had caused a shortage of marked police vehicles.
The Metropolitan Police Department contracts with Serco Management Services Inc. for mechanical repairs to its vehicles for about $4 million a year. Major body repairs are done by local body shops.
The department has had problems with Serco since it was hired in October 1999, and department managers have been cited by two auditors with mismanaging the Serco contract.
The department is ready to award a new contract, and sources said Serco could be replaced within the month by First Services, a division of Ryder Truck.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson last week said she would like the police department to justify hiring a contractor rather than doing the work in-house and will ask Chief Ramsey about the contract's management during a July 10 hearing.

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