- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

A D.C. Council member yesterday called on Mayor Anthony A. Williams to submit any contract extension for police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to the council for approval because of questions about the chief's leadership of the department.
"There are too many issues that have arisen regarding performance of the police department, and these warrant consideration by the council before this government locks itself in to a new or extended contract," wrote Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat.
Mr. Mendelson said yesterday the council should have the right to approve the contract, because it was not the legislators who confirmed Chief Ramsey in 1998, but the now-defunct D.C. financial control board. However, he said his letter was motivated more by Chief Ramsey's performance than by the council's desire to put its own stamp on the chief.
"I would certainly hope that the mayor would honor what I am requesting," Mr. Mendelson said. "I believe there needs to be a full discussion of the chief's performance and it should come before the mayor renews his contract."
Tony Bullock, press secretary for Mr. Williams, said Mr. Mendelson was overstepping his authority.
"This is a request from a councilman to take over a function that is clearly an executive function, and it's not going to happen," Mr. Bullock said.
While all indications are that Chief Ramsey will sign a new contract in the coming weeks, Mr. Mendelson's letter articulates a growing dissatisfaction with the police chief among council members.
"He's under the gun, there's no doubt about that," said Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee that oversees the police department.
Mrs. Patterson said although the control board is no longer in operation, Chief Ramsey's confirmation remains legally binding. She said the police chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor, and nothing in the law requires Mr. Williams to submit the new contract to the council.
Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, told The Washington Times last week that the chief and the mayor were within weeks of signing a new deal that would keep Chief Ramsey in the District through the mayor's term, which expires in January 2007. She said the contract would include a pay raise for Chief Ramsey, who earns $150,000 a year.
Mrs. Patterson said the council would be required to review any pay raise over Chief Ramsey's current salary, along with any addition to his benefits package.
Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, has said a pay raise for Chief Ramsey would send the wrong message to his constituents. He said a vote on a pay raise may be an opportunity for council members to make themselves heard.
"I think we will see an opportunity to weigh in on this," Mr. Fenty said. "I don't think it would be wise for [Mr. Williams] to act unilaterally, given the amount of controversy that's going on right now."
In his letter, Mr. Mendelson cited the low morale of officers, a low homicide closure rate and inadequate deployment of police in neighborhoods.
He also expressed concerns about the "improper arrest and detainment" of anti-globalization demonstrators who were herded into police buses at Pershing Park during the first day of IMF/World Bank protests Sept. 27.
But the most serious complaint deals with staffing at the 911 call center. Mr. Mendelson said the chief had provided inaccurate information to the council. He said Chief Ramsey told the council last year there were 106 operators, and 15 more would be hired. Last week the council found out there never had been more than 86 call takers, he said.
Police operators handle all incoming calls to the public safety communications center, then transfer fire and medical calls to fire department dispatchers.
The 911 center was scrutinized by council members after a Jan. 15 fire in Dupont Circle, which resulted in the death of one person.
Although 13 operators are supposed to be on duty at one time, reports indicate that as few as four were taking calls when the fire broke out about 6 a.m., leading to a two-minute delay in response because the first call was held in a queue.
Chief Ramsey said yesterday that nine persons six D.C. police officers and three civilians who work in the call center face disciplinary actions following an internal police investigation into the delayed response. Termination has been recommended for seven of those nine persons, he said on "Ask the Chief" yesterday on WTOP Radio. The eighth person faces a 30-day suspension and no punishment has been determined yet for the ninth person.
"It increases my confidence in the police department to hear they've actually investigated this and they've identified wrongdoing," said Ward 2 Democrat Jack Evans. "The only problem is they didn't do this on their own without having the council prompt them to do it."

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