- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Metropolitan Police Department officials will allow as many as 230 officers to opt out of the first phase of Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s signature All Hands on Deck initiative this year, citing concerns about the program shortchanging neighborhood patrols.

The concession marks the second time Chief Lanier has altered the crime-fighting initiative this year in the face of criticism that it was poorly conceived.

In an e-mail Friday obtained by The Washington Times, police department Inspector Steven Sund stated that officers would be able to keep their days off on May 2 and 3 “to ensure proper staffing of the [patrol service areas] patrol functions during the preceding days.”

During All Hands on Deck last year, the entire 3,900-officer department worked patrol shifts over five weekends. Officers scheduled to be off on those weekends had to reschedule.

Assistant Chief Alfred Durham said about 230 officers were offered the option because they would have been scheduled to work every weekend this month because of demonstrations downtown and Pope Benedict XVI’s visit last week. He said 160 had opted out as of yesterday but did not know whether others could still do so. Chief Durham also said about 1,900 officers are now assigned to patrol duty.

Kristopher Baumann, who heads the union labor committee that represents the department’s officers, said the e-mail validates criticism he made last year that All Hands left district commanders short on staff for weekday patrols.

“The question is now, why did it take a year for them to figure this out?” he said. “We warned them.”

Chief Durham acknowledges the move was made in part because of the criticism and points out that All Hands patrols this year also will be on weekdays, unlike last year.

“Last year we were short in some” patrol service areas, he said. “It’s one of the issues we’re remedying.”

Earlier this month, Chief Lanier took heat from D.C. Council members and civil rights activists for her Safe Homes initiative, in which officers without warrants will ask residents if they can search their homes for illegal weapons in exchange for amnesty.

The chief said she is working with civil rights and community groups to determine the best way to start the program, which was scheduled to begin in late March but has been delayed because of the criticism.

The e-mail surfaced days before the D.C. Public Employee Relations Board is scheduled to rule on a complaint from the police union against Chief Lanier that she improperly rescheduled patrol shifts during All Hands last year.

Chief Lanier said she followed union rules, but earlier said that unlike last year she released the entire All Hands schedule in advance this year to ensure officers have ample time to reschedule off days.

Chief Lanier, backed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, has stood by the program as an investment in community relations and as a way to show increased visibility while she recruits 300 new officers.

“I don’t see a predictable increase in crime each summer as a crime emergency,” Chief Lanier told The Times earlier this month, adding that All Hands is designed as a proactive approach based on historical crime trends.

On Friday, the department added extra patrols in the 5th District in response to five killings from April 14 to 18, but one more person was killed in the district Sunday.

The city has had 45 homicides this year, three fewer than at the same time last year, with the 5th District, largely in Northeast, accounting for one-third of them, according to the department.

The department has kept down overall crime but has struggled to keep a lid on burglaries and strong-arm robberies, which are up this year over this time last year, 14 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

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