- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

A D.C. Council hearing yesterday on whether to approve a proposed $25,000 pay raise for Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey turned into a debate about police effectiveness that seemed to do little to sway opinions on either side.

More than 40 people, including crime victims, advisory neighborhood commissioners, business leaders and law enforcement community members testified at a joint hearing of the council and its judiciary and government-operations committees.

The witnesses split nearly evenly between favoring and opposing the pay raise.

Those who favored the raise pointed to Chief Ramsey’s extensive work in rebuilding the infrastructure — the technology, the facilities, the equipment and the training — of the Metropolitan Police Department in his five years on the job.

Those who opposed the raise focused less on the expense required in raising the chief’s salary from $150,000 per year to the proposed $175,000 per year and more on the symbolism of rewarding the chief while police visibility remains low and crime rises in the city.

“I do not support a raise for the police chief when violent crimes across the District are going up,” said D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to hold the chief accountable. If we don’t do it now, I’m fully confident in the next five years we will have more of the same.”

Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, yesterday distributed the draft of a bill to extend Chief Ramsey’s contract for one year at his current pay level.

Among those supporting Mr. Fenty’s proposal were Sandy Nelson, the girlfriend of a Metro Transit Police captain whose car was shot at outside the couple’s 5th District home.

During her testimony, Miss Nelson presented a petition to council members with the signatures of more than 460 residents, predominately from the 5th District, supporting Mr. Fenty’s proposal to evaluate the chief’s performance for a year. The petition also asked council members to call for a Justice Department investigation into police practices in the 5th District.

Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, recited statistics showing that crime is down from where it was in 1997, the last full year before Chief Ramsey took over.

“I don’t think the council should be in the position to castigate a very fine officer,” Mr. Brazil said.

John M. Derrick Jr., president of Potomac Electric Power Co., testified on behalf of the Greater Washington Board of Trade that Chief Ramsey has done a “very good job.”

“Our observation of Chief Ramsey and his performance is that he is a first-rate executive,” Mr. Derrick said.

He said it would be unusual to tie an agency head’s base salary to performance, as some council members have suggested.

Council member Carol Schwartz took issue, not with the proposed salary or benefits, but with the term of the police chief’s contract, noting that at four years and nine months it would keep the chief on the job a year longer than the mayor.

Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, complained that if a new mayor were elected in 2006 and decided to replace Chief Ramsey, the chief would be entitled to at least six months separation pay at taxpayers’ expense.

David Catania, at-large Republican, said the fact that Mayor Anthony A. Williams hasn’t demanded more of Chief Ramsey shows Mr. Williams hasn’t provided proper oversight and hasn’t held the police chief accountable for putting officers in city neighborhoods..

“My biggest objection is that [Mayor Williams] hasn’t done his job,” Mr. Catania said. “The problem is we have a mayor who is apparently afraid of the chief.”

According to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report for 2002, which was released Monday, some violent crime in the District is up over 2001. There were 262 rapes in 2002 compared to 181 in 2001. Aggravated assaults were down, while robberies remained nearly the same.

But the homicide rate escalated, jumping from 231 in 2001 to 264 in 2002 and earning the District the dubious title of “murder capital of the United States” for cities with more than 500,000 residents.

The council will vote on the pay-raise resolution at its July 8 legislative session. Mr. Fenty plans to introduce his bill calling for a one-year review of the police chief during the same session.

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