- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey refused to divulge his plans yesterday for remaining in the District after the D.C. Council narrowly approved a $25,000-a-year pay raise for him.

The council’s 7-6 vote did not extend the chief’s 5-year-old contract with the city and did not address his retirement benefits package, which includes a $60,000-a-year pension.

After a contentious, hourlong debate yesterday, the council authorized increasing Chief Ramsey’s annual pay to $175,000. The vote came a day after council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, withdrew emergency legislation for the chief’s retirement benefits because of a lack of support for it.

Council members have sought to tie the chief’s benefits to his department’s performance, saying he has deployed too few officers on city streets and citing an increase in homicides.

Council members Jim Graham, Ward 2 Democrat; Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat; Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican; Jack Evans, Ward 1 Democrat; Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat; Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat; and Mrs. Cropp voted for the pay raise.

Members Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat; Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat; Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat; Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat; David Catania, at-large Republican; and Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, voted against it.

Chief Ramsey has indicated he would consider leaving the city if the benefits package is not approved but has declined to say how long he is willing to wait.

A police spokesman said yesterday that the chief had no comment on the council vote.

Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said she spoke with the chief several times yesterday and that he accepted the council’s decision.

“I’m confident Chief Ramsey is going to show up at work tomorrow,” she said.

But Mrs. Kellems expressed less confidence when asked whether Chief Ramsey might leave the department in the near future. “That is certainly a risk the city has assumed at this point because of the council’s actions,” she said.

The benefits package includes a 57-month contract extension and provisions for six months’ separation pay should the chief be fired without cause. It is part of a contract agreement signed May 7 by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Chief Ramsey, whose original contract expired in April.

With or without a contract, Chief Ramsey remains an appointed city agency director, said Mrs. Kellems, noting that the contract extension would give him three additional months of separation pay and increase his pension by $18,000 a year.

Chief Ramsey has not had a pay increase in his five years as the leader of the Metropolitan Police Department. His $175,000 salary makes him the city’s third-highest-paid worker and places him among the highest-paid police chiefs of the country’s largest cities and police departments.

For example, New York City’s police commissioner receives about $162,000 a year, Chicago’s police chief makes $160,000, Philadelphia’s takes in $180,000 and Los Angeles’ chief earns $239,000, according to published reports.

The District typically ranks as a midsize city but has the largest per capita police force in the nation — 3,600 officers for its 575,000 residents.

Mrs. Kellems said the mayor plans to begin an aggressive campaign in the summer in support of Chief Ramsey and to revisit the benefits package with the council in the fall.

Mrs. Cropp began yesterday’s debate by citing concerns from residents and council members, such as the police department’s dysfunctional 911 system, excessive overtime costs and low closure rates on investigations.

“It would be unconscionable, given what we know is going on in the streets, to give the chief a pay raise,” Mr. Chavous said.

Mr. Brazil, a supporter of the pay raise, fired back.

“The puncture wounds that we’re inflicting to allow [Chief Ramsey] to bleed to death are unconscionable,” he said, “and certainly not good public policy.”

The council’s judiciary committee was reviewing the chief’s benefits package because it would require changing D.C. law. Mrs. Patterson, committee chairman, had blocked the package from going before the full council because she did not support it.

Mrs. Cropp decided Monday that she could not get the nine votes needed to bring the package to the full council on an emergency basis.

Mrs. Patterson defended her action yesterday. “As judiciary chair, I have a small amount of power for a short amount of time,” she said. “If I don’t leverage that power as best I can to get better police protection for the residents of the District, I’m not doing my job.”

Mr. Evans said his decision to support the pay raise is likely to cost him among constituents.

“This is a person who has not performed badly,” Mr. Evans said of Chief Ramsey. “I’m a bit puzzled as to how this has spun out of control to the point where he’s vilified in the community.”

Mr. Orange noted that in the decade before Chief Ramsey, the city had 200 more killings a year, excessive force complaints were rampant, corruption was rife in the police department, and officers were poorly equipped and trained.

“I believe we need to look at the overall situation, examine where we’ve come from and where we are today,” Mr. Orange said.

Yesterday’s vote became closer than expected when Mrs. Allen and Mr. Catania changed their minds during the debate after having committed themselves to voting for the raise.

“The longer I sit here, the less enthusiastic I am about supporting this particular pay raise,” Mr. Catania said.

“I don’t blame [the chief] for not doing his job. I blame the mayor for not making him do his job,” Mr. Catania said. “I want to send a message to the mayor: ‘Do your job.’”

Moments later, Mrs. Cropp cut Mr. Catania short with a warning that he was out of order.

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