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Steven Harlan's Defense of Chief Larry Soulsby
A Letter to the Washington Post
October 20, 1997




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District of Columbia Financial Responsibility
and Management Assistance Authority
Washington, D.C.

October 20, 1997

Ms. Meg Greenfield
Editor of Editorial Page
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

In your editorial on Wednesday, October 15, 1997, you suggested that I should explain to the community why the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (Control Board) continues to support Larry Soulsby as Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) There are several reasons, but the primary ones are performance and results.

The results of the police initiatives are truly impressive. Crime is down 18% this year. In 1996, from January 1 through October 9, there were 52, 022 Part One crimes (Part One crimes are the serious crimes). This year there are 9,210 fewer such crimes for a total of 42, 812. The numbers since the new Police Patrol Operating System was started are even more impressive. Overall, when compared to the same period last year, crime is down 25% for the period August 1, through October 9, 1997.

Homicides are the worst kind of crime. In 1997, homicides are down 25% this year to date. In 1996, year-to-date through October 15th there were 334 homicides. This year there are 248 homicides. That is 86 lives saved this year compared to last year. In other cities, we would be celebrating this improvement, not talking about firing the leader who has brought this about.

That leads me to discuss the second reason we continue to support Chief Soulsby; and that is improved performance in MPD.

Since March 1, 1997 the date the Chief was given full authority over the MPD without political interference, a great deal of positive change has occurred:

  • On March 1, 1997, there were 577 officers available for patrol. Today, there are two and one-half times or 1,461 officers assigned to patrol the neighborhoods.
  • There is a new operating model for police patrol that is working The Police Service Area (PSA) officers are focusing their attention on reducing crime in their PSA's not just responding to 911 calls.
  • A new mission for MPD has been adopted. It is, "MPD is committed to eliminating crime, the fear of crime and general disorder while achieving trust and respect within the community."
  • Police officer training is now taking place It had been stopped for years.
  • Recruitment of new police officer cadets has improved. Background checks of potential cadets is more rigorous. Standards are higher.
  • Arrests are up 24% overall for 1997 through October 9th Part One arrests are down 8% because Part One crimes are down 18%. Part two arrests are up 33%. These are often called "quality of life" type crimes These arrests have a great deal to do with the overall crime reductions
  • Performance measurement systems are being put in place to help reward those officers doing a good job and penalize those who are not.
  • A 10% police pay raise has been obtained to bring police officers more in line with surrounding jurisdictions.
  • There is some improvement in the supporting infrastructure. New cars and vests/body armor have been acquired Mobile computers are being installed.
  • Homicide leadership has changed and improvements in crime scene control and case management has occurred.
  • Random drug testing has been implemented for all police officers.

The rate of positive change in MPD is significant since March 1, 1997. The Chief has led the way with support from the police officers themselves, the consultants, the public and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOW) Partners. The MOU Partners include the City Council (Chairperson and Chair of the Judiciary Committee), the Mayor, the Corporation Counsel, the U.S. Attorney, the Superior Court (Chief Judge), the Police Chief and the Control Board. The MOU Partners have worked together in helping to bring about positive change, but we all realize we have a long way to go.

In the near future, more changes will take place. These include:

  • New citizens complaint process will be implemented after further citizen review.
  • New communication system to improve 911 response time will be installed.
  • New operating model for investigating homicides that is designed to improve the closure rate is being developed.
  • Complete studies of the other divisions in MPD; including Special Operations, Traffic and Criminal Investigating Division will be completed.
  • Major revision in the case processing system will take place. This one change could save the time equivalent of over 100 police officers.

Your editorial questioned why Chief Soulsby was given an opportunity to lead this police reformation in the first place. Hasn't he been there for years? Wasn't he part of the problem?

The facts were that the Chief's position prior to March 1, 1997 was not a strong position. The Chief would give an order and his high ranking officers may ignore it, or worse still, work behind the Chief's back to lead the officers in another direction. That happened. The Chief could do very little about it then.

What we decided, just before March 1, was to give Chief Soulsby a chance. Keeping him as the Police Chief gave us a running start -- we did not have to go through a search for a new chief that would have taken four to six months Then after a new chief came in, it would take time for that person to assess the situation and get the reformation started.

We also said that we would review the situation periodically every six months or so. Chief Soulsby has done well since March 1, 1997. We will keep our eyes on the situation and monitor the changes and the results.

No one is satisfied with the level of crime in Washington. We all know that the MPD had fallen into a high state of disrepair, just like every other department of the District's government. But progress is being made and that is what counts.

We all must start measuring results not personalities As long as we are on the right track, going in the right direction, and moving fast, I am not for changing the engineer, or the Police Chief.


Stephen D. Harlan
Vice Chair

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