- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday said he wants to reform criminal-investigations units with low case closures by hiring experienced detectives who have retired from the District or left other police agencies.
Chief Ramsey asked the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee to pass two bills that would authorize him to create the temporary detective positions. He said the positions would bring to the department experience that was lost when veteran detectives retired, as well as fresh perspectives from detectives who have served in other departments.
"I think it's going to strengthen our ability to solve cases," Chief Ramsey said. "I think we've lost a little talent over the years, and we're trying to get it back."
Last year, D.C. police detectives solved 55 percent of the city's homicide cases. The number was up from 2001, when detectives solved about 49 percent of homicide cases, but far below the 70 percent figure when Chief Ramsey took over in 1998.
Chief Ramsey said the detectives would be sworn officers who would primarily work in field assignments, investigating active homicide, drug or gang cases, depending on their particular expertise.
Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, said it was her understanding from prior correspondence with Chief Ramsey that they would be civilian positions geared toward mentoring and training younger detectives, rather than leading investigations.
"I think the question is, 'what is the problem this is trying to solve,'" Mrs. Patterson said.
The proposal was strongly criticized as unnecessary by members of the police union and one former commander of the homicide-investigations unit, who added that it would drain resources from existing detective units, impede upward mobility and diminish morale.
"It is troubling that the performance of the unit has deteriorated to the point where someone would consider taking the drastic action proposed in going outside the agency to hire investigators," former MPD Cmdr. Lou Hennessy said in written testimony submitted to the council. Mr. Hennessy, now a Maryland state legislator, commanded the homicide investigations unit from 1993 to 1995.
Gregory Greene, acting chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Labor Committee, said current detectives are being made "scapegoats for mismanagement."
"Our investigators are investigated and castigated if they spend too much time pursuing a difficult case," Sgt. Greene said.
Detective McKinley Williams, a homicide detective since 1972, serving most recently in the unit's cold-case squad, said he handled low-profile murder cases in Anacostia until he was transferred out in December. Chief Ramsey said Detective Williams wasn't closing enough cases.
"This is a kick in the face," Detective Williams said of the proposal. "We have brilliant detectives and brilliant officers who want to be detectives. Now it becomes a numbers game. You have to get X amount of closures or you're going to get transferred. That's not right."
Chief Ramsey said the proposal was not meant to discount the talents and contributions of current detectives or to withhold promotional opportunities from officers.
"Our future is in building the capabilities of the young people in this department," he said. "We've got some top-flight people. This is to help them, not to hurt them."
Chief Ramsey said he would be willing to negotiate a cap on the number of hires that could be made under the proposal. He suggested 10 percent of the department's 400 detectives that work criminal cases in police districts, as well as specialized units such as violent crimes and major narcotics.
"I think it's very unlikely," Mrs. Patterson said of that figure. "We don't have the money for it."
Mrs. Patterson said a vote on the legislation would come next month at the earliest.

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