- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

The D.C. Council is scheduled to vote today on a $25,000 raise for Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey. He makes $150,000 now. The raise would make him one of the highest-paid police chiefs in the country and the third-highest-paid employee in D.C. government. We do not doubt that he has a difficult job, but his uneven record thus far does not justify a raise.

In the real world outside of bureaucracies, raises often are tied to improvements in performance. Albeit admittedly old-fashioned, the policy rests on the idea that one has to earn what he is making. By this yardstick, the chief still has too much room for improvement to be rewarded for a job well done. The number of rapes was up last year, and homicides this year are ahead of last year’s rate — all while violent crime has been decreasing nationwide. Washington’s murder rate is second in the nation, behind only Detroit. Two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took heat when he pointed out that, “You’ve got to remember that if Washington were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month.” These words may sound impolitic, but they touch upon the inescapable fact that the streets of postwar Baghdad are safer than those in America’s capital.

Part of the problem is that it does not seem like the Metropolitan Police Department is working hard enough to turn things around — especially when considering that it has the largest police force in the nation on a per-capita basis. The rate of closure for homicide cases is still abysmal. Policies that could make a dent in the crime rate — such as more community policing and foot patrols — have yet to materialize, though that is what was expected when Chief Ramsey was brought here. What he has done is institute gimmicks that harass and confuse citizens, such as photo traffic enforcement and constantly flashing lights on police cruisers that make it hard to know when there is an emergency and when there isn’t. Random traffic stops are a misuse of valuable police time.

Chief Ramsey has not received a raise since he arrived in Washington five years ago, but part of the reason is that he was hired at the top of the municipal pay scale. Instead of raising his salary, the council should raise the bar requiring results. Given that some crime rates are rising and the dire budget shortfalls inflicting the city, giving the head cop a raise would send the wrong message. The D.C. Council should vote down Chief Ramsey’s raise today.

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