- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

The Metropolitan Police Department has not made any of the improvements it was supposed to have made under an agreement it reached with the Justice Department a year ago, according to an independent report released yesterday.

"Despite substantial efforts in the past several months, MPD has failed to accomplish virtually all of the milestones identified in the [memoranda of agreement]," said Michael R. Bromwich, the monitor hired by the department to track reforms.

The police department signed the memoranda of agreement (MOA) on June 13, 2001, after a Justice Department investigation found D.C. police officers were not trained properly in use of force and weapons. Additionally, the Justice Department said, MPD did not adequately investigate excessive uses of force and needed to revamp its canine unit.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey had asked the Department of Justice to investigate his department in 1999, when he discovered a high number of incidents in which officers used excessive force.

The police department was supposed to have new policies for use of force and firearms and a new canine policy by July 13, 2001, but to date, none of the new policies has been finalized. D.C. police officials said the new policies would be completed by the end of the month, according to the report.

The department was also supposed to improve its training procedures, handling of complaints, police management, case closure rates and case documentation, among other deficiencies.

D.C. police did not return several calls seeking comment.

Under the agreement, the Justice Department can file a lawsuit if MPD fails to comply or meet the deadlines, a Justice Department official said.

But Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said it was unlikely the police department would be sued.

"Although I have not met with the Justice Department in several months, my sense is that they are not close to running this thing off the cliff," Mrs. Kellems said.

Mr. Bromwich said there were several reasons for the missed deadlines, including the slow start by D.C. police.

Mrs. Kellems acknowledged the difficulties in getting the department up to speed.

"The problem has been that the deadlines were really too aggressive," she said. "It just took longer than we expected, and after September 11 some of the priorities shifted."

She said that the city should "probably not have so quickly agreed" to some of the early deadlines, and that the original staff assigned to handle the changes "couldn't get the job done."

But she said the staff has been revamped and the police department is back on track now "moving forward, headed in the right direction."

Mr. Bromwich praised the department for creating the Force Investigation Team (FIT), a special unit formed before the MOA that investigates excessive-force cases.

FIT "reflects substantial improvement in the way MPD investigates [use of force] and appears to be of high quality," he said.

But Mr. Bromwich was critical of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, saying the mayor is not taking the issue seriously.

"We have tried repeatedly to meet with D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams," the report said, but the mayor responded to Mr. Bromwich in a June 6 "form e-mail" that said Mr. Williams had scheduling conflicts that prevented him from meeting with the independent monitor.

Mrs. Kellems said she, not the mayor, is the point person for getting D.C. police into compliance.

"I think [Mr. Bromwich] wants to be sure that the city is committed to this, and I can assure you that we are," Mrs. Kellems said.

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