- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

D.C. Council members and a congressman are worried that the no-arrest policy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is leading to the outright release of criminals and is putting the community at risk.
Department of the Army (DA) police at Walter Reed have complained since November that their inability to arrest civilian violators is endangering the public. Several offenders have been released into the community, in some cases without an official report filed.
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Maryland Republican who is running for governor, has been questioning the Army about its policy since February. In a letter to the Army's congressional liaison, Col. Michael W. DeYoung, the congressman expressed his concern for the decreased level of law enforcement at the military hospital, located in the District's Shepard Park neighborhood.
"Our stance is pretty clear. We want to know to what degree the laws will be enforced and who will enforce them," said Ken Ziegler, spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich.
"The congressman wants officials in the Army to address this problem before someone ends up getting hurt," he said.
The Washington Times reported in January that a suspected drug dealer, a woman who assaulted an officer and a doctor who had not held a valid driver's license in five years all were released without being charged.
D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, told The Times her office had been in contact with Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey since February to try to resolve the problem. She sent a letter to Chief Ramsey on Feb. 22 asking what the department's solution would be.
"We've been going back and forth. I don't have anything formal in writing back, although I've asked for a response," Mrs. Cropp said.
She said she hopes the release of potential felons and drunken drivers is not as serious as she has been led to believe. She was informed of the law enforcement lapses by D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Lou Cannon.
Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he, too, would be writing a letter to Chief Ramsey.
Mr. Ziegler, who is Mr. Ehrlich's point man for investigating the issue, said he has been made aware of several instances in which drunken drivers and people in possession of handguns illegal in the District have been released.
"A drunk driver who blew a 0.30 [blood alcohol level] was outright released within less than an hour," Mr. Ziegler said.
Officer Patrick Hayes, Fraternal Order of Police vice chairman for Walter Reed, said the situation has become increasingly worse since November, when as many as 15 persons driving with expired or revoked licenses and two persons in possession of marijuana had been released.
On the morning of April 11, a man who entered the base and was subjected to a random search of his vehicle "was found to have eight ounces of marijuana in his possession," Officer Hayes said in a written statement.
"MPD did not assume jurisdiction and he was taken to the gate and let go after the military police report was completed," he said.
"But he was only charged on paper," he said.
Walter Reed officers did have arrest powers at one time. In 1997, the DA police force signed a memorandum of understanding with the 4th District to arrest and process felons before turning them over to D.C. police.
D.C. Assistant Chief Ronald Monroe was the commander of 4th District who signed the 1997 memorandum.
The memo allowed DA police to transport criminal violators to the 4th District to be formally charged for their crimes under D.C. law.
But in November, the new post commander at Walter Reed backed out of the agreement.
Col. Randal C. Treiber, garrison commander at Walter Reed, told The Times the civilian police officers at the base are not federal officers and therefore have no powers to arrest or transport civilians past its gates.
Chief Monroe, who has been in discussions with Mrs. Cropp, said he is looking into the matter and has set up a meeting with the Judge Advocate General's Office and the D.C. police general counsel for next week.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide