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Charles H. Ramsey statement to the
U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
May 8, 1998




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Statement of Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department
Before the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
May 8, 1998

Good morning, Congressman Davis and other members of the subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, to update you on my plans for the Metropolitan Police Department and to answer any questions you may have.

I come to you today not simply as chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, but also as a fellow stake holder in the future of this city. I recognize that some of you represent communities that are located far from the District of Columbia. But I also know that you work here, and you and your families probably spend significant amounts of time here. Like the hundreds of thousands of other people who live and work in the District, you are my customers — you are consumers of the services provided by the Metropolitan Police Department. And, like the other people who live and work in the District, I hope to count on you as my partners in community policing — partners who are actively engaged in making our nation's capital a safer, more livable City.

Last month, I declared a "new beginning" for the Metropolitan Police Department. As with any new beginning, there will be changes in the MPD, and these changes will be significant and far-reaching. The changes I envision will help make the MPD the finest, most community-oriented police department in the nation. And they will help the District of Columbia assume its rightful place as the safest major city in the United States.

The changes we make will be significant and systemic, but they will also be carefully planned and executed. They will be based on thorough research and a hands-on assessment by me of this Department and its relationship with the community. As the first chief in three decades selected from outside the MPD, I need to see and hear, first-hand, what our strengths and weaknesses are, as well as those key areas where change is needed most. I plan to accomplish this by continuing what I have already begun in the last few weeks: opening up lines of communication within the MPD and between the MPD and the community, including members of Congress.

Next week, I am issuing a document called “Laying the Foundation for a New Beginning.” It describes a series of steps I will be taking over the next few months to prepare the MPD for the changes that lie ahead as we fully embrace the philosophy of community policing. During this period, my focus will be on three key areas: 1) Assessing the critical needs of the community and the police department; 2) Building leadership capacity within the MPD; and 3) Developing a plan of action for the future.

In assessing the needs of the community and the Department, I am reviewing the findings of recent management studies and reports. They provide valuable information that will help us plan for the future. But I also intend to collect additional information from additional sources. For example, I will be conducting town hall meetings across the District, to identify the crime and disorder problems of most concern to the community, their opinions of current police services and their views on the relationship between police and community. The first of these meetings will be held in approximately one month. Regular meetings with community, business and government leaders, as well as media and police union officials, will help me determine their priorities and the contributions they can make to the community policing partnership here in the District. Continuing to update this subcommittee on our progress will be a top priority.

Internally, my assessment will focus on the needs of both our individual members and our organization as a whole. Each has tremendous needs, and I am convinced that improving the quality of police service in the District will depend upon identifying and meeting those needs. In the coming weeks, I will continue to reach out to hear directly from the rank-and-file of the Department, through roll calls, ride-alongs, small-group meetings and formal surveys. To better ascertain organizational needs, I intend to contract with an independent firm, experienced in auditing law enforcement agencies, to conduct a thorough, objective audit of all MPD operations.

Priority number two is building leadership capacity within the Department. to successfully transform this agency, I need to build a team of management professionals who are loyal and trustworthy, who possess superior management skills, who share my vision for the future, and who can motivate others to work toward that vision. Some of our future leaders will come from outside the Department. I intend to recruit nationally to fill key leadership positions where the Department lacks indigenous talent. But I also know that we have tremendous talent within the organization. And I intend to tap that talent for future leadership roles. I have already begun interviewing all current and potential command members to determine their experience, their knowledge and their commitment to community policing and the changes it entails. During the coming months, I will make command changes as necessary, to ensure that we have the best and the brightest leading the charge for change in the future.

Assessing needs and building leadership capacity lead directly into my third immediate priority: developing a plan of action for the Metropolitan Police Department. This plan will clearly articulate our priorities. It will establish a strategic vision for the future. It will set the standard to which 1, personally, and the Department as a whole, will be held accountable.

This plan will outline actions to be taken in a number of critical areas, including integrity, resource allocation, organizational structure, fiscal responsibility, human resource development, and infrastructure — both technological and physical. The condition of our physical plant is of tremendous concern to me. In just my initial visits, I have found many of our district stations, as well as our training academy, our firearms range and other facilities, to be antiquated, inadequate and, in some cases, unsafe. To be effective in fighting crime and working with the community, our members need decent and safe facilities in which to work.

Finally, this plan will include a new model of community policing for the District of Columbia — a policing model that responds to the unique needs of the District and its people. Once we have defined this model, implementing it will take some time. But two elements of this new strategy are nonnegotiable. Our policing model will rely on partnerships with the community and a problem- solving approach to crime reduction and control.

The partnerships I speak of will go far beyond just police officers and community residents. They will necessarily include all stakeholders in this city, including other agencies of municipal government and other law enforcement agencies, particularly those in the federal government. Collaboration with the FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, Park Police and others has had a significant impact on some of our most serious crime problems. The U.S. Capitol Police and Chief Gary Abrecht, in particular, play an integral part in maintaining the peace not only here, on the Capitol grounds, but also in adjoining neighborhoods. Continued partnership with these and other federal agencies will be an important part of the District's new community policing model.

By applying these two principles — partnerships and problem-solving — to the unique needs of our city and our Department, I am confident that we can create safer communities and an improved quality of life in all neighborhoods. I know that we can have a positive impact on a wide range of problems —  from neighborhood disorder to shootings and homicides. Although the District's homicide rate is at a 10-year low, I believe we can bring it lower still — by examining all shootings in the city, by pinpointing where our pockets of violence are, and by developing creative new strategies for intervening early to prevent the violence that causes so much fear in so many of our neighborhoods here in the District.

At my confirmation last month, I pledged to create an efficient, well-managed, honest and ethical police department. And I am moving confidently toward my goal of making the Metropolitan Police Department the finest in the nation. I know I cannot achieve that goal alone, however. To succeed — and we will succeed — I will need the continued support of people within the Department and within the community. I appreciate the support this subcommittee has provided the MPD in the past. And I look forward to an even closer and more productive partnership in the future.

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