Thursday, June 30, 2011

Commissioner Ramsey – Bring us the Programs that WORK

Being a former member of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC), I have quite a bit of insight into policing strategies and management styles that were horribly deficient in accomplishing the most vital task of a municipal police force; which is to make the community safer.  Upon my recruitment to the MPDC, I was (as were my fellow officers) filled with a great deal hope and positivity toward the appointment of our new Chief, Charles H. Ramsey; a tough-talking Chicago cop who brought us all into Constitution Hall to tell us how we were about to become a real, functional department – finally rooting out the mismanagement and malaise of the Marion Barry years.  Shortly afterwards, scout car beats were changed to Patrol Service Areas – cutting a much wider swath of area for patrol units to cover.  Detectives were decentralized, attempting to maximize deployment by taking them out of specialized investigative functions and dropping them into a pool of investigators answerable to geography as opposed to type of crime.  Furthermore, to compensate for low recruitment, Chief Ramsey started the “Mobile Force” and “Redeployment” programs, which forced detectives and officers assigned to specialized units to rotate back into patrol for two weeks at a time. 

As you may imagine, recruitment standards for the Department were quite low during the Mayoral career of Marion Barry (1979-90 and 1995-99, now a Councilman for Ward 8).  This translated into extremely poor quality paperwork and testimony by many of the officers recruited locally during this time (many of whom were products of the DC Public Schools, which boast only 36-39% proficiency in math and reading), many of whom had over ten years of service at the time Ramsey took the helm of the Department; and thus had been promoted to Sergeant and above.  Ramsey’s response was to mandate that all arrest paperwork be signed by the Watch Commander (one per district per shift), causing two consequences; a queue of officers off the street awaiting paperwork review and a Watch Commander who was not able to respond to incidents in the field requiring supervision.   Furthermore, Ramsey didn’t have faith in his choices for command staff, appointing civilian directors, such as Steve Gaffigan (a former DOJ employee who had Ramsey stay with him at his DC home while he was interviewing and was later fired in DC for a myriad of harassment and mismanagement claims) and Nola Joyce (who Ramsey has brought to Philly for a 6-digit job as Chief Administrative Officer).

The result of these changes in Ramsey’s eight years as Metropolitan Police Chief?  After an abysmal homicide clearance rate, the Detectives were re-centralized.  Crime surged, prompting Ramsey to declare extended “crime emergencies” which enabled him to do away with union contract protections, suspend days off, and force officers to work mandatory overtime for which they were only granted compensatory time (not pay); much of which they were unable to use due to caps on leave balances.  

Furthermore, Ramsey became known for ordering unlawful terminations for aggressive, young police officers – many of which were for minor (30-or less day) suspend-able complaints.  He leaked private car-to-car computer transmissions to the Washington Post, which led to an “email scandal” where over 40 officers were fired, then reinstated with back pay over 3 to 5 years later for violations to the union contract. 

I, myself was unlawfully terminated by Ramsey for sending an email to an officer’s email list about a CityPaper article where the reporter made unsubstantiated claims of corruption against a reputable vice officer, to have the termination later reversed by both federal arbitrators and DC’s own public employee relations board.  Did I wait for the department to reinstate me, nope, I ended up getting a higher paying job with the Department of Homeland Security where I was using my mind, not my body to accomplish my duties.  Instead of doing what was right and reinstating me as ordered, I was arrested for a trumped-up firearms charge when I called the MPDC after breaking up a fight at a DC nightclub.  Still determined to not let a good man be kept down, I have since had my own public safety consulting firm, been a technical advisor for film and TV projects, done homeland security technology integration for the City of Los Angeles, Columbus, OH, and Southeast Pennsylvania Counterterrorism Task Force, and worked hard in a position where I investigate acts of certification fraud in the healthcare community.  The law for which I was arrested for has since been overturned, twice, by the US Supreme Court and I was reinstated to MPDC in 2007, just in time to clear my name. 

Little public discussion has been held regarding Ramsey’s zeal in firing good police officers, many of whom need proper supervision, to appear like he’s “tough on police abuse” while costing the city millions in legal damages. 

So while it’s obvious that I have a chip on my shoulder with Commissioner Ramsey and the MPDC, I do have to give credit where credit is due.  The Metropolitan Police Department has the finest Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) in the nation.  Their method of training, certifying, and equipping officers assigned to each district in the city in how to effectively engage in mass arrests, infiltrate roving bands, break up unlawful demonstrations, and use less-lethal force (OC, CS gas, Riot Batons, Shields, etc.) has been adopted by agencies throughout the world.  Ramsey, himself, regularly joined CDU platoons on the frontlines of demonstrations and special events, touting its effectiveness.

So why has Ramsey continued to bring failed concepts to Philadelphia like the PSA concept, but hasn’t used the CDU model to respond to the flash-mob epidemic?  Maybe it’s because he was personally sued for ordering illegal mass arrests of globalization protesters in
Pershing Square
in 2002?  Maybe because many of Mayor Nutter’s supporters would not approve of Philadelphia Police in riot gear, rounding up juvenile flash mobs with assistance from bean bag guns, gas, and OC-spray fire extinguishers. 

Nobody can tell, as we are not party to Ramsey’s discussions with Nutter; but what is clear to many Philadelphians is that many of the programs brought with Ramsey are not making Philadelphia safer, but the one concept that many departments have travelled to DC to adopt; isn’t being used to stop the flash mobs that are terrorizing the city.   Either way, many of us are wondering if he was worth an additional $60,000 raise for staying in Philadelphia, when it's been reported that he was out of the running in Chicago at the time when Nutter granted him that raise.

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