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Rebuilding the Metropolitan Police Department
For a Safer Capital City
Chief Charles H. Ramsey
September 9, 1998




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In July 1997, the Metropolitan Police Department took an important first step in making community policing a reality in the District of Columbia. The Police Service Area (or PSA) model refocused the Department’s patrol efforts on the city’s neighborhoods. It gave teams of PSA officers and supervisors greater responsibility for fighting crime. And it established new ways for police and community to work together to solve neighborhood problems

While the PSA model represented a good start, the resources devoted to it were inadequate. A major problem was that the rest of the Police Department remained locked in a rigid bureaucratic structure that not only failed to embrace the new operating model; it actually got in the way of how basic police work gets done.

Now, the Metropolitan Police Department is taking the critical next step to more effectively police our Nation's Capital. We are restructuring the entire Department to (l) place more resources in the community, (2) focus our resources on reducing crime and solving problems in the city's 83 PSAs, and (3) hold managers at every level of the organization accountable for the quality of policing services within their geographic commands. In short, we are putting the Police Department in a much stronger position to take back the city’s neighborhoods — block by block, community by community — in partnership with our residents and other agencies.

The new organizational structure enhances our ability to fight crime by:

  • Increasing police resources in the community. Additional.sworn personnel — detectives,, investigators and uniformed officers — are being moved out of centralized units to assignments in the community.
  • Eliminating bureaus and cutting bureaucracy. The existing bureau structure created excessive bureaucracy and made coordination across units cumbersome and inefficient. Those four bureaus are being eliminated, replaced by a more logical and streamlined command system which promotes team work, communication and geographic accountability for fighting crime.
  • Strengthening the PSAs. Not only are more officers and supervisors being assigned directly to the PSAs. More field resources are being assigned in direct support of the PSAs, and PSA managers are being given greater authority and responsibility to build partnerships and solve problems.
  • Creating full-service police districts. Key operational services — patrol, investigations, focused missions, traffic and prevention — are being placed in the districts. At the district level, these crime-fighting services will be more accessible to the community and of greater support to the PSAs.
  • Establishing geographic accountability throughout the organization. The new structure organizes the districts into three Regional Operations Commands, located in the community and led by a Regional Assistant Chief who is accountable for managing resources and coordinating efforts throughout the region. This creates a complete system of geographic accountability for fighting crime — from the PSAs, districts and regions, all the way up to the chief of police.
  • Streamlining the business side of the organization. Administrative and technical functions are being consolidated under a unified command that can more efficiently provide the tools, training and technology that are critically important to field personnel.
  • Creating the capacity to continuously improve the Department. A new focus on strategic planning will identify opportunities to improve the organization and develop innovative strategies and programs that meet the needs of Department personnel. A new quality assurance team will follow up on this work, ensuring compliance with new programs and standards and identifying areas in need of further improvement.
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The new structure eliminates the four bureaus and creates a more streamlined organization that promotes team work, communication and accountability.

Our new organizational structure is a significant departure from the way police departments — in Washington, D.C., and across the country — have been organized. The new structure represents nothing short of the wholesale transformation of the MPDC, from a bureaucratic, incident-driven agency to a streamlined, customer-driven service organization — one that is focused on forging alliances to more effectively fight crime and solve problems.

Implementing change of this magnitude is not simple, and it will not happen overnight. The new structure will not become effective immediately. Rather, the transformation will take place in phases over the next few months. Each phase will be carefully planned and implemented — from logistics to policies and procedures to training — all of which will take some time.

Once in place, the new structure will bring the MPDC in line with the way police work gets done. It will promote a team orientation in fighting crime. All operational units — all the way up the chain of command — will be organized by geographic area. As a result, all units will share the same goals and be held accountable for achieving the same results. At the same time, the new structure will support the MPDC’s commitment to community policing. It will bring a wider range of police services closer to the customer, thus encouraging the partnerships and problem solving that are key to effective community policing. In short, our new structure will put the MPDC in position to regain our place as the nation's leading police agency.

Police departments everywhere exist for the same basic reasons:

  • To respond to and solve criminal incidents
  • To respond to and resolve non-criminal incidents
  • To identify and solve broader crime and disorder problems

These three functions are the unique responsibility of the police. They represent the work we do.

Community policing does not change these core functions. Nor does community policing provide the organizational structure needed to effectively carry out our work. Community policing simply provides the principles or values that guide our efforts principles such as listening to the community, establishing partnerships, involving other government agencies, etc. In recent years, police departments across the country (including the MPDC) have struggled with trying to implement the philosophy of community policing with the same organizational structures we have used for years. The result: our structure has become fundamentally out of sync with the way work gets done in the organization.

For example, the MPDC (like most other police departments) has long relied on a very traditional, vertical organizational structure, with separate bureaus organized around specific functions (patrol services, support investigative services, etc.). In reality, however, most police work takes place laterally, with work passing across different organizational units. A call to 9-1-1 is received by one bureau, dispatched to a unit in another bureau for initial response, assigned to a third bureau for investigation, and then given to a combination of still other units for follow-up problem solving and prevention.

This traditional structure provides little or no accountability for the end result: solving the incident or addressing the problem. Each unit in each bureau tends to follow its own goals and performance measures — which may or may not reflect the goals and performance measures of the Department as a whole or the community. Communication across bureaus is often haphazard, overly bureaucratic or nonexistent. The bottom line is that the traditional police organization has become incompatible with the way police work needs to get done, especially under the philosophy of community policing.

The MPDC's new organizational structure addresses the shortcomings of the traditional model. It replaces isolated operational bureaus based on function with more unified operational commands based on geography and geographic accountability. It promotes common goals, objectives and performance measures throughout the organization, and establishes new levels of managerial accountability based on geography. It streamlines internal communications, and enables the smooth transition of work from one unit to another.

Here are key elements of the MPDC's new structure:

  • Enhanced PSAs. The PSAs will be enhanced by the addition of resources (both officers and supervisors) and the expansion of the PSA management team. Each PSA will be led by a manager who is clearly accountable — 24 hours a day — for the results and behavior of the members of the PSA team. The PSA manager will report directly to the District Commander, thus ensuring that other district resources are supporting crime fighting and problem solving in the PSAs. The PSA manager will be assisted by a team of first-line PSA supervisors, who will oversee the work on each shift, assist the PSA manager with special projects and be accessible to the community and responsive to their needs around the clock.

  • Full-Service Police Districts. The role of the police district is being dramatically expanded, from a narrow focus on patrol to the full range of police services needed to solve crimes and address neighborhood problems. In addition to the PSAs, each district will include:

    • Violent Crimes Investigators
    • Property Crimes Investigators
    • Focused Mission Teams
    • Operational Support Team
    • Customer Service
Chart of police district organization
The role of the police district is being expanded, from a narrow focus on patrol to the broad range of services needed to fight crime and solve problems.

Many of these functions will be staffed by personnel reassigned from centralized units. The result is seven full service police districts in which the primary crime- fighting resources of the Department are more accessible to the community through the PSA structure.

  • Regional Operations Commands. The seven full service police districts are being organized into three Regional Operations Commands (ROCs): Northern (Districts 2 and 4), Central (Districts 1, 3 and 5), and Eastern (Districts 6 and 7). Each ROC is commanded by a Regional Assistant Chief whose office is located in the community and who has the authority (free of the traditional bureaucracy) to make decisions and allocate resources to support crime fighting and problem solving throughout the region. To supplement district and PSA efforts, each ROC includes a youth investigations unit, a crime analysis capability and an executive officer who serves as the liaison to the rest of the organization, including the 9-1-1 center.

  • Special Services. Highly specialized operational units that are citywide in scope are being organized under a new Special Services Group. This group includes those functions, such as Emergency Response, Special Events and Major Narcotics, that have unique training, resource and operational needs. Like the Regional Operations Commands, the Special Services Group reports to the Executive Assistant Chief in Charge of Operations. This ensures coordination between these specialized units and PSA, district and regional operations.

  • Operations Command. To ensure a 24-hour-a-day, Department-wide command presence, a new citywide Operations Command is being established within the Office of the Executive Assistant Chief. Command-level personnel will be available to respond to and oversee major incidents that require their presence at any location in the city, at any hour of the day.
  • Corporate Support. The Department's critical business functions are unified under a new corporate support structure. Led by an Assistant Chief, this structure streamlines the delivery of services in four key areas: human services, business services, training services and operational support services. Organizing these corporate services under a single command helps to ensure greater coordination within these functions and more effective delivery of services to the operational side of the organization.
map of three regional commands
Most operational services are being organized under three regional commands. This creates geographic accountability for fighting crime throughout the organization — from the PSAs up to the chief of police.

A lot of work remains to be done in implementing the new organizational structure. This process will involve identifying new leadership in some areas; defining and re-defining relationships between units; putting in place the physical infrastructure; moving personnel to their new assignments in the community; establishing policies and procedures; training, and more.

This process will begin immediately, but it will take some time. We anticipate the Regional Operations Commands to be in place by the end of October, with the remainder of the reorganization completed by the end of the year.

There are three keys to rebuilding the Metropolitan Police Department:

  • Create an organizational structure that is in sync with the work we do.
  • Establish clear managerial authority and accountability.
  • Deploy resources to best support crime fighting and problem solving at the neighborhood level.

Our new organizational structure goes a long way toward accomplishing all three. By itself, however, the new structure does not guarantee success. That will continue to depend on the hard work, dedication and service of our members. This new structure is designed to provide our personnel - in particular, our front-line officers and supervisors — with the tools, the access to resources and the management support they need to do their jobs. Creating an organization that is more efficient and more responsive to our members' needs puts the MPDC in position to fulfill our commitment to make Washington, D.C., the safest major city in America — block by block, community by community.

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