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Stephen D. Harlan testimony to
U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
May 8, 1998




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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Good morning. My name is Stephen D. Harlan. I am the Vice Chairman of the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (Authority) and the Chairman of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOW) Partners. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee.

I am pleased to be here today to discuss what I believe is an exciting and optimistic time for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the District of Columbia. Crime is at its lowest level in the past 20 years and we are very pleased to have a first rate Chief of Police.

Nearly 17 months ago, in December 1996, the MOU partners embarked on an effort to make major improvements in the MPD and to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the District's neighborhoods. At that time, crime in the District was rampant. From 1985 to 1996 homicides rose more than 150 percent, robberies were up by 50 percent and car thefts increased by nearly 500 percent. By the end of 1997, 12 months after the MOU partners began their effort to improve the operations of the MPD, crime declined by 19 percent below the previous year. As of the end of the first quarter of 1998, overall crime is at the lowest level in 20 years.

While the crime statistics clearly illustrate that significant progress has been made in reducing crime, they are meaningless to those residents of the District who still live every day in fear — who are afraid to sit on their porches, afraid to leave their homes after dark, afraid to let their kids play outside or walk to the corner store. We will not be successful in our efforts to address the District's crime problems until our citizens are no longer afraid to walk the streets.

In order to make residents and visitors feel safer in the District, MPD must increase the police presence on the streets. In July, 1997, MPD began implementing the new Police Service Areas (PSAs), which were designed to balance workload in a way that enables the department to much more effectively deploy officers to the neighborhoods and to increase the police presence in the patrol functions. The number of officers in patrol functions in the police districts have increased more than fifty percent since January 1997. However, police presence remains much too low, particularly considering that the MPD has the highest per capita number of officers of any other police department in the country. While the PSAs generally have been well received by MPD police officers and community members, the PSA strategy has not resulted in the increased police presence that we expected.

Patrol officers continue to spend too much time in activities related to booking prisoners and making court appearances. They also spend too much time away from the PSAs for administrative reasons, such as annual leave, disability leave, and administrative leave. MPD estimates that there are approximately 45 officers on extended disability leave who will never return to work. MPD is taking actions to retire these officers and to tighten controls on extended sick leave.

MPD also is focusing on streamlining the booking procedures to enable officers to return to patrol as quickly as possible after an arrest, while ensuring that the necessary functions are performed. Additionally, for several months, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Office of the Corporation Counsel, and the Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court, and the MPD have been working very closely together to develop several case processing reforms designed to reduce the amount of time officers spend on court-related activities.

One such reform is the officer-less papering program in which officers will no longer be required to appear for in-person interviews for every case as part of the charging process. Similar programs exist in every other major jurisdiction in the country. MPD will begin this program on June 1, 1998, when MPD has completed all of the report writing training necessary to make this program a success. MPD conservatively estimates that the current case processing reforms could result in approximately two hundred thousand additional patrol hours in the short term. In the longer term, up to five hundred thousand additional patrol hours could be realized — the equivalent of 250 added police officers to the streets.

Another factor that contributes to fear in the District is the distrust of MPD officers, which has been heightened as a result of the recent allegations of widespread corruption in the Department. The MOU partners remain concerned about integrity and accountability issues in the MPD. However, we are confident these issues will be addressed through the on-going, comprehensive investigations of the MPD by the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the U.S. Attorney's Office, MPD's Internal Affairs, and the Council of the District of Columbia. We will continue to monitor the results of these investigations as they are developed.

In order to make residents and visitors feel safer on the streets and to increase the public's confidence in the police, MPD also must solve more homicide cases. MPD increased its case closure rate from approximately 57 percent in 1996 to 70 percent in 1997. Additionally, the number of homicides in 1997 was at a 10 year low of 301. There were nearly 100 fewer victims of homicide. However, the homicide rate in the District is still unacceptably high. Also, MPD has not solved several high profile cases, such as the Starbucks case, which occurred 10 months ago, and some of the Petworth cases — one of which took place in 1996. While I am aware that the police department and the FBI are working diligently to close these complex cases and have made some progress, the fact that months and, in some cases, years have gone by without closing the cases does not inspire public confidence in the department.

One recent action that should help improve MPD's ability to close homicide cases is the appointment of a highly qualified Chief Medical Examiner for the District — Dr. Jonathan Arden. Dr. Arden assumed responsibility for the District's Medical Examiner's Office (Office) on April 15, 1998. We expect that he will bring about major improvements in the Office. The MOU partners, Janet Reno, the Attorney General, and Dr. Camille Barnett, the Chief Management Officer, all played key roles in convincing Dr. Arden to accept the position. We are committed to providing Dr. Arden with the resources and support he needs to be successful and to ensure that improvements in the Medical Examiner's Office are lasting. We also are committed to identifying funds to establish a state of the art forensic laboratory, which would greatly enhance our on-going efforts to improve public safety in the District.

While there is much work ahead, we are confident that under the leadership of the District's new Police Chief — Chief Charles Ramsey — MPD will provide the District's residents with the quality police service they deserve. We anticipate that crime will continue to decline, that officer presence on the streets will continue to increase, and that residents will begin to feel safer in their neighborhoods and throughout the City.

As you know, on April 2, 1998, the MOU partners selected Mr. Ramsey as the new Police Chief for the District of Columbia. Chief Ramsey was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Council of the District of Columbia on April 20, 1998, and sworn in on April 21, 1998. We are very fortunate to have him as our Police Chief.

After the resignation of the former Police Chief in November 1997, the MOU partners decided to conduct a nationwide search for a new Police Chief. The MOU partners firmly believed that MPD must have a strong and skilled leader with demonstrated ability to implement the reforms so desperately needed in the department. We were committed to identifying the best person for the position from anywhere in the country. We took this task very seriously. We recognized the importance of the decision to the citizens of the District and the impact of the decision on the District's ability to continue its crime reduction efforts.

An executive search firm was retained to assist with the search for a permanent Police Chief. Additionally, the MOU partners sought out individuals they thought were highly qualified for the position. In fact, Chief Ramsey is one of those individuals. He did not initially apply for the job.

When we learned that the Mayor of Chicago did not select him for Police Chief, we immediately contacted him in an attempt to persuade him to apply for the position of Police Chief for the District. In fact, Dr. Camille Barnett and I immediately flew to Chicago to meet with him and convince him that he should consider Washington, D.C., and that we would do everything possible to support him should he be selected as the Police Chief.

The search resulted in a pool of more than 40 applicants, many of whom were among the very best police leaders in the country. Of those applicants, nine were selected for interviews. As a result of the initial round of interviews, the MOU partners and the Mayor's Citizen Advisory on March 31, 1998 interviewed the final candidates.

The candidates were evaluated in terms of their experiences and achievements in policing during two decades or more in large, urban police departments. The Mayor's Advisory Committee, which was established to assist the Mayor in the selection process, recommended that Mr. Ramsey be appointed Police Chief. The MOU partners gave considerable weight to the committee's recommendation. We felt strongly that it was important for community members to have a voice in the selection of the Police Chief. After all, the community will have to work in close partnership with him to reduce crime in the District. The MOU partners unanimously selected Mr. Ramsey as the new Police Chief. We are confident that he possesses the leadership, drive, and skills to lead MPD on a course toward greater professionalism and continued crime reduction.

Chief Ramsey has had a successful and impressive career in police leadership. He started in the Chicago Police Department 29 years ago as a police cadet. He quickly rose through the ranks, serving one-third of his career in command level appointments. He has vast experience in managing all aspects of a police department. Most recently, he served as the Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Staff Services. He also served as the Deputy Chief of the Patrol Division, he was commander of the Narcotics Section, commander of a Patrol Division and a Detective Division, and he has held many other management positions in the department. Mr. Ramsey received numerous awards during his outstanding career, including the Gary P. Hayes award, which is the Police Executive Research Forum's most prestigious honor.

Chief Ramsey clearly did a terrific job in Chicago, where he was credited with designing and implementing a successful community policing model. The program was selected by management expert Tom Peters as the public sector model of excellence for providing quality customer service. Chief Ramsey has publicly stated that one of his top priorities is to lead the District's effort to design and implement community policing strategies tailored to the unique needs of the diverse communities in the District.

Chief Ramsey has a five year contract with the District of Columbia. He will report to the Authority during the term of his contract. The contract provides for an annual evaluation of the Police Chief based on performance standards that hold him accountable for the performance of the department.

The MOU partners are committed to supporting Chief Ramsey in his efforts to make MPD one of the best police department's in the country, and to provide the District's residents with the quality police service they deserve. We recognize that he can not be successful in reducing crime and improving the quality of life in the District without the support of all the criminal justice agencies in the District, as well as other District government agencies. When we began reforming the MPD, our focus was solely on MPD. We since have realized that, since the criminal justice agencies are integrally linked, we must expand our focus to include the entire criminal justice system and other relevant District government agencies, where appropriate.

The crime problems in the District can not be solved by MPD alone. Many District agencies, such as the Departments of Public Works, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Recreation, Employment Services, and Human Services, including the Youth Services Administration, must share responsibility and accountability for addressing the City's crime problems. We also can not be successful in reducing crime without the support and cooperation of community members. We are confident that Chief Ramsey can lead MPD in establishing trust and respect between the police and the community.

Mr. Chairman, we have several efforts underway to increase the cooperation among the criminal justice agencies and other District government agencies. The MOU partners have formed three committees comprised of staff of the various agencies represented on the MOU partnership as well as other City agencies. These committees include the information technology committee, which is led by Jay Carver, the Offender Supervision Trustee appointed under the D.C. Revitalization Act; the juvenile justice committee led by Moses McAllister of the D.C. Superior Court; and the community justice committee led by Debra Long-Doyle of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Additionally, the recent focus on closing the open-air drug markets in the City and reforming case processing in the criminal justice system have resulted in new levels of coordination and cooperation among numerous District and federal agencies.

The MOU partners also recently convened their second two-day session devoted to exploring issues and opportunities in the District's criminal justice system and planning our agenda for the months ahead. We held our first session in January of this year and our second session in mid-April. We have benefited greatly from support we have received from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and other important criminal justice practitioners and scholars from around the country. We look forward to continuing our partnership with these individuals and organizations.

The recent planning session for the MOU partners, held in mid-April, focused on issues surrounding juvenile crime in the District. As a result of the planning session, we agreed to create a task force of relevant District government agencies and the NIJ to assess available data on juvenile crime problems so that we have information on which to base our decisions. The spirit of community among the MOU partners was evident at the session.

The MOU partners are bringing a new sense of energy and commitment to addressing the District's crime problems. There is a feeling that, for the first time, the criminal justice agencies and other District government agencies are beginning to truly collaborate on issues, and to share information and responsibility for solving some of the District's crime problems. The level of cooperation and collaboration should continue to improve with the on-going implementation of the City-wide management reforms. Nevertheless, we have laid the foundation to build effective and lasting partnerships among these agencies. We must now focus our attention on more effectively bringing the community into these partnerships.

While it is clear that progress has been made, there is still a great deal of work to be done to reach our goal of a fully effective, well managed police department and a safer City. The Authority is committed to working with Chief Ramsey and the other MOU partners to ensure that major reform in the police department occurs. The District's residents deserve a quality of life that makes the nation's capital one of the safest cities in the country. We are committed to that goal.

Mr. Chairman, before I close, I would like to bring you up to date on where we stand on the fiscal year 1999 consensus budget. Based on recent discussions with the Chief, the consensus budget of $273 million would include approximately $245 million for personal services and $28 million for non-personal services.

The personal services budget would be comprised of $187 million for salaries and benefits for sworn members; $30 million for salaries and benefits for civilian employees; $12 million for other pay; $1 5 million for overtime; and $20 million for the pay raise. The personal services budget assumes a sworn member level of 3,600 throughout the fiscal year, and a civilian level of 722 at the beginning of the fiscal year, with approximately eight new hires each month, for a year end total of 822. Two million in funding for 100 additional civilian employees should greatly assist MPD in its "civilianization" efforts.

MPD also will receive $10 million in management reform funds in fiscal year 1998. Chief Ramsey currently is finalizing a spending plan for the management reform funds.

Chief Ramsey is satisfied with the fiscal year 1999 budget recommendation, and believes that he can continue to move the department forward with the proposed budget.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be happy to respond to any questions that you might wish to ask me.

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