- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey says crime in the District is so severe that he has invoked a clause in the police union’s contract that allows him to cancel leave and reassign officers without the required 14 days’ notice.

Chief Ramsey said the move will give district commanders more flexibility in deploying officers to specific locations at specific times to target rising crime.

“In order to respond to the crime we’ve got going on in the District, I think it’s necessary to do this,” Chief Ramsey said. “We’ve used different tools and different things to get a handle on it. I think we’ve exhausted all that and we’re taking these additional steps.”

The action will go into effect Monday and continue through at least Oct. 1.

Crime is up 2 percent overall in the city, but Chief Ramsey said each of the seven police districts is experiencing a spike in at least one type of crime. He said homicides have increased 58 percent in the 7th District and robberies are up more than 30 percent in the 4th and 5th districts.

“The point is, if we let it keep creeping up, we find ourselves in the same situation as we did in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.”

Chief Ramsey said he proposed the plan to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who supported it. The chief said the problem isn’t with his officers, who make an average 850 arrests a week.

“Our department has not been sitting on its hands,” he said.

He called the move a “pretty big step” and one that he doesn’t take lightly. Invoking the clause gives the chief the same authority to suspend leave and transfer officers as he has taken during heightened security alerts and massive demonstrations.

“It’s rarely done for crime,” he said.

The move was not well-received by the police union.

“We agree that there’s crime in D.C. We don’t agree that this is the definition of a crime emergency,” said Sgt. Darrick Ross, acting vice president of the Metropolitan Police Department Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee. “I can understand the public is going to think we’re just whining, but in the situations where there is a crime emergency, we’ve been there.”

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he was glad Chief Ramsey was acknowledging the city’s worsening crime problem, adding that if the chief’s plan makes police more visible on the streets, his constituents will support it.

“It’s not that you need to make them work more hours, you need to make them more visible,” Mr. Fenty said. “We need to have the eight hours that officers are working be better managed.”

Mr. Fenty criticized Chief Ramsey and his department’s performance during a recent debate over whether the police chief should receive a $25,000 raise. The council voted to raise the chief’s salary to $175,000 per year but did not approve a contract that would have kept the chief in the city for four more years and granted him a $60,000 retirement annuity.

Chief Ramsey denied that politics had anything to do with yesterday’s announcement.

“I don’t deal in political motivations,” he said. “Anybody, unless they just came back from Mars, knows we have a problem with killings in this city.”

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