- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, once hailed as the archetypical big-city police professional who would solve the District's crime problem, is coming under criticism from residents and D.C. Council members alike.
Some of the caustic comments seem based on crime statistics that don't always support the barbs, while other complaints involve intractable problems such as manpower and deployment.
The total number of reported crimes in the District, for instance, was down 2 percent last year, according to preliminary statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Police Department and obtained yesterday by The Washington Times. But the homicide rate rose to its highest level since Chief Ramsey took over in 1998.
John Aravosis, an Adams Morgan resident, recently started what he characterized as a grass-roots Web site (ww.safestreetsdc.com) to address "police inaction."
"We hear that there have been a lot of improvements, and the chief talks a good talk, but where's the action?" he asked. "Where are the results?"
But in Mr. Aravosis' district District 3 overall crime last year showed no statistical movement, up or down. Homicides in District 3, however, were down 50 percent.
Missing from those statistics, he said, and leading to resident disenchantment with police in general and Chief Ramsey in particular, are too many incidents of police officers mistreating victims.
Mr. Aravoisis' Web site chronicles incidents in which residents believe police acted inappropriately. Several involve victims who were either mugged or assaulted, yet who saw no action by police.
"People don't trust the police," Mr. Aravosis said. "The only response you get from the police is, 'Fill out a complaint form.' It's a non-answer, and a condescending and dismissive answer."
D.C. Council member Jim Graham, a Ward 1 Democrat who recently filed a complaint against the police after an incident in Northwest resulted in his friend's arrest, said the chief is facing his biggest challenge to date.
"We know that Congress likes him. We know that the business community and the mayor likes him. And we know he has major skills and a lot of people like him, but [we] have a situation where the grass roots are rising up and frustration and exasperation are at an all-time high," Mr. Graham said.
Mr. Graham and council member Adrian Fenty, a Ward 4 Democrat, yesterday announced a proposal that could vastly change the way officers are deployed in the city.
If passed by the D.C. Council, the Public Safety Crisis Emergency Amendment Act of 2003 would require a minimum of 18 officers be assigned to each of the city's Police Service Areas (PSA) within the next 90 days.
Each of the city's seven police districts is broken up into PSAs, which are staffed by teams of officers. There are 82 PSAs across the city. Mr. Graham said that since the PSA system started in the mid-1990s, it has not functioned properly, with some of the PSAs staffed by as few as six officers at a time.
Under the proposal, failure to staff them with at least 18 officers each would mean the dismantling of the PSA system.
"There's been a lot of good work under Ramsey's leadership," Mr. Fenty said, "but this issue of police visibility in general and officers in the PSAs specifically is so big that it could undermine all the good stuff that he's done."
Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said Chief Ramsey would have to review the council members' proposal before addressing it. Chief Ramsey is in Israel with a delegation of police from the United States and Canada participating in a weeklong anti-terror seminar. He is expected to return tomorrow.
At his weekly news briefing yesterday, Mayor Anthony A. Williams voiced his confidence in Chief Ramsey, saying the city has opened negotiations with him to renew his contract. Chief Ramsey was hired in 1998 from the Chicago Police Department, where he was deputy superintendent for staff services.
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Metropolitan Police Department has spent what some critics say is an inordinate amount of money assisting federal agencies with security.
Appointed city officials largely dismissing any criticism of Chief Ramsey say the problem was solved when Congress agreed to give the District $15 million annually, beginning in the 2003 budget, to pay overtime for public safety personnel assigned to anti-terrorism duties.
"Nobody could be satisfied with everything that's happened [since Chief Ramsey was appointed]," said Tony Bullock, a spokesman for Mr. Williams. "The mayor has full confidence in Chief Ramsey … yet the mayor wants to see improvements in the department."
Margret Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety, pointed to the lower overall crime rate in the District during the chief's tenure compared to the preceding 30 years.
"In the last four years since Chief Ramsey has been here, there has been the lowest four-year crime period on record since the mid-1960s, when we began keeping records," she said. "There certainly are still a lot of problems, but I don't think it is a fair characterization to say that the chief has not done an outstanding job."


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