- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

In 1997, the year before Charles Ramsey became the police chief of Washington, the city's homicide-closure rate exceeded 70 percent. In mid-1998, the year he arrived, the homicide-closure rate hit 64.5 percent. In 1999, the closure rate dipped again, to 61.2 percent. So, in establishing bonus-related goals for 2000 and 2001, it hardly seemed extreme to seek to achieve a closure rate fractionally above the rate achieved during the year he was hired. Thus, the homicide-solving goal became 65 percent, which, it's worth noting, was still more than 5 percentage points below the rate obtained the year before the chief arrived. Well, as it happens, the homicide-closure rate continued to deteriorate. In 2000, the rate fell to 57 percent.
Last year, the rate plunged below the 50 percent mark, hurtling to 48.5 percent. With the clearance rate in free-fall plunging more than 30 percent relative to the rate achieved the year before he hit town what does the chief do? Does he redouble his department's efforts? Does he raise the bar to a level that compares with the closure rates achieved in Baltimore (78 percent) or New York City (77.9 percent), and then announce that he expects to be held accountable? No. Chief Ramsey rejects both alternatives.
Instead, in his own self-serving manner, the chief weasels. With his own bonus on the line, Chief Ramsey pushed the bar all the way down to 50.9 percent. At that level, why bother? If a homicide-closure rate of less than 51 percent is acceptable to the chief of police in the nation's capital as a goal worth pursuing, perhaps the mayor ought to establish a new goal for himself: To wit, why not hire a chief of police who worries less about his bonus and more about performing his job?
Last year's closure rate was the lowest in a decade, and improving that unacceptable performance by a mere 5 percent doesn't cut it. Moreover, it isn't as though the Metropolitan Police Department were performing its other duties up to speed. The Chandra Levy investigation has so far proved to be one sad joke, giving rise to all sorts of well-earned barbs about the District's Keystone Cops.
After failing to find Miss Levy last year and after spending a week canvassing Rock Creek Park day and night for additional clues, Chief Ramsey was crowing June 6 about what "an excellent, excellent job" his troops had performed. Hours later, private investigators located Miss Levy's tibia in the very area the department had spent a week searching. Once again, the chief pledged, "We're working as hard as we can to find out who's responsible for the murder of Chandra Levy."
Well, that's the problem. Whether it involves the Levy case or any of the other hundreds of unsolved homicides, "working as hard as we can" simply isn't hard enough. And lowering the bar isn't likely to help. Rather, Mayor Tony Williams might instead think about lowering the boom.

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