- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey is facing stiff resistance from the police union over his plan to use a clause in the union contract that allows him to cancel officers’ leave and reassign officers to crime hot spots with no notice.

The move, announced Thursday and implemented yesterday, was prompted by what Chief Ramsey called a disturbing development in D.C. crime rates.

“In my opinion, we have a trend that is very troubling,” Chief Ramsey said yesterday. “We went into the summer down slightly in crime, and we left the summer up slightly in crime. When you look at us historically and look at the trends in our department, fall can be very troubling for us in a lot of different crime categories — homicides, robberies, things of that nature. We need to get a handle on this now. That’s all we’re trying to do, nothing more, nothing less.”

Chief Ramsey, who was flanked by district commanders and members of his senior staff, said during a news conference at police headquarters that each of his commanders had submitted a plan for fighting crime in their districts based on the added flexibility of moving officers without notice.

“This isn’t like the invasion of Normandy here,” Chief Ramsey said. “These plans have to be very fluid. We need to move where the crime is.”

At a separate news conference, officials with the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Labor Committee said the move is likely to fail. Union officials say crime is up in the city because a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Justice Department signed by Chief Ramsey has limited officers’ ability to show and use force. They say fear of dismissal and discipline is making it impossible for them to fight crime.

The June 2001 pact was a direct result of Ramsey’s 1999 request for a Justice review of the department’s use-of-force policies.

Sgt. Gregory Greene said if officers make physical contact with a suspect, draw their guns or use pepper spray, batons or other weapons considered less than lethal, their actions are still subject to review. He estimates that 5 percent of his members are facing disciplinary review.

“We want to be more aggressive toward those we believe to be responsible for crime, but our hands are tied,” Sgt. Greene said.

He said there has been a crime emergency in the District for quite some time, and suspending the union contract was unnecessary.

“I didn’t ask people to dig a moat around the building; I asked them to do a little police work,” Chief Ramsey said. “And I think it’s important that people remember we are police officers.”

Cmdr. Winston Robinson, who leads the 7th District, where homicides are up 60 percent over last year, said districts would be sharing resources to combat lesser crimes such as drug dealing, robbery and prostitution, which can lead to homicides.

“A lot of our robberies are a result of prostitution. A lot of our homicides are a result of prostitution where the john is set up by the prostitute. It just goes on and on and on. Everything has kind of a causal effect,” Cmdr. Robinson said.

“There are several Patrol Service Areas that have specifically marked increases in crime, whether it’s robberies or stolen autos or whatever,” said acting 4th District Cmdr. Hilton Burton.

“You can kind of get a feel for where things are going to happen,” said 2nd District Cmdr. Jeffrey Moore.

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