- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

For more than two months, The Washington Times has been reporting that the people occupying the upper ranks of the D.C. Fire Department aren't who they say they are. For 13 months, this newspaper has been questioning the Metropolitan Police Department's investigation into the disappearance of Chandra Levy. While fire officials have resigned, and Miss Levy's remains have been found, tough questions still remain unanswered and the weakest links are public-safety czarinas Margret Kellems and Kathy Patterson.
First, accolades because it would be unfair to give the impression that Mrs. Kellems and Mrs. Patterson are total sloths. Indeed, both women have questioned Fire Chief Ronnie Few and Police Chief Chuck Ramsey.
The problem is they haven't asked the right questions, which is a bad habit, and they haven't asked enough questions. Mrs. Kellems, for example, knew before a March 13 story in The Times that three of Chief Few's top aides had lied on their resumes about not only their professional backgrounds but their educational experience as well. She and Mrs. Patterson also knew that, because Chief Few had failed to meet several key goals last year, he failed to earn a bonus this year.
Yet, thanks to the media, Chief Few is on his way out the door while nary a word has been said or questioned regarding Mrs. Kellems' performance. After all, if Chief Few failed to measure up, so did Mrs. Kellems.
For her part, Mrs. Patterson rightly wonders aloud albeit in The Times instead of on the dias for all to see and hear how Mayor Tony Williams proposes to handle the transition in a fire department that is essentially bankrupt with leadership in the upper ranks. She essentially sets herself up for considerable criticism, though, by revealing that the problem, yet again, is lack of oversight. "I think the problems that were here [before Chief Few arrived] are still here," she said. Lt. Ray Sneed, president of the firefighters union, said things are "worse."
How can that be? Is the District's taxpaying public mindful of the fact that both these women seem to be in over their heads when it comes to 911 services?
The police department, for example, does an admirable job on one hand the one that handles potentially dangerous and disruptive demonstrations, and which reacts to deadly situations like those on September 11 and a lousy job on the other when it comes to day-to-day policing and management. And, generally speaking, the District's police officers, firefighters, and ambulance crews are among the best and the finest on the East Coast.
Statistics tell an altogether different story about the department, however. Where I work, in the Fifth Police District, everything from homicides to stolen autos to theft and sexual assualts is on the rise. According to the Metropolitan Police Department's web site, there were 401 stolen autos thru April of this year compared to 343 in April 2001, and there were 18 homicides vs. 12. Burglaries are alarming, too with 232 by April compared to 194 for the same period last year. The violent crime statistics don't include things like prostitution trick and treating that now is a 24-7 "street service" in 5D, or even arson, which is a huge problem in D.C. public schools.
What is more is that overall violent crime is up city-wide. Again, the department's own statisitics say that through April there were 65 homicides compared to 61 last year, 1,636 aggravated assaults vs. 1,295 and 2,314 stolen autos vs. 2,157. With a triple homicide occurring last week and the remains of Miss Levy handed to the department and ruled a homicide, there is no telling what stats for May will say. One thing for certain is they can only go up.
Suffice it to say, with the weather already warming, school about to close for the summer, and Chief Ramsey "losing" his right-hand man, Terry Gainer, to the U.S. Capitol Police, one thing is certain: Either those statistics will stay as they are, which is highly unlikely, or rise which is bound to happen.
How have Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Kellems responded? Have you seen them? Have you heard them? Have you read in this newspaper that either of them berated, chastised or simply interrogated Chief Ramsey on those stats? On other missing-persons cases besides Miss Levy's? What about unsolved homicides? Are they grilling the chief about those?
No, you haven't. It was the same with Chief Few. It's the same because Mrs. Patterson has been allowed to wash her hands by saying things like, "The responsibility of the legislative branch is to make laws," which is part of the truth.
However, is Chief Few resigning because he partly lied on his resume, or mostly told the truth? Is he resigning because Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Kellems did their jobs, or because the media handled their dirty jobs for them?
Don't be fooled. Mrs. Kellems is either sucking up to the mayor for her shortcomings, or looking for another job in case he isn't re-elected. Mrs. Patterson, however, has no boss and doesn't have to suck up. She has no substantial competition.
And that, dear readers, is reason enough to declare an emergency.


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