- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

If D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson has her way, there will be far fewer police officers on the streets this time next year. Mrs. Patterson seemingly prefers to endear herself to unions by spending funds on raises for city workers, rather than giving the police Chief Charles Ramsey the money and tools he needs to hire and deploy officers. If this were an election year, perhaps we'd better understand though not necessarily agree with Mrs. Patterson's actions. We urge the mayor and the chief to continue lobbying for the Metropolitan Police Department, and we urge Mrs. Patterson's colleagues to restore the department's much-needed funds.
Currently, the department has about 3,615 officers. In a city of 571,000 residents, that ratio might sound like adequate law-enforcement coverage (and, in some cities, it might be). However, this is the nation's capital, where the daytime population swells to more than double that size and where demonstrators in one protest sometimes number in the tens of thousands. Violent crime, meanwhile, is surging, with this year's homicide rate apace with 1998, when the chief arrived from Chicago. Mr. Ramsey also has to reconcile his deployment to handle retirements, court appearances, homeland security needs befitting the capital of the free world and other demands. All the while, residents and businesses in high-crime areas are complaining about the lack of neighborhood patrols.
To be sure, it is disappointing that the chief reneged on his promise last year to bolster the ranks. And, during this budget session, it is indeed fitting that the chief be reminded by his boss and the council of his broken promises and other ineffective policies. After all, the police department's new sting operation that targets out-of-town cars hurts any sound arguments on his behalf.
Still, the top responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Department is to uphold law and order, and Chief Ramsey's fiscal 2004 budget is headed in that direction. His specific request to spend $11.6 million for 185 new officers should be judged on the merits of his law-and-order policies not the fickle winds of politics. We urge City Hall to do the right thing.


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