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Ramsey: ‘Bashing’ cops doesn’t help improve their performance

(Published July 2, 2001)

By PATRICE DICKENS

Staff Writer

Police Chief Charles Ramsey, while agreeing with some of the criticism residents direct at his department, says "pointing fingers and bashing" police officers is counterproductive to improving the city’s much-heralded "community policing" efforts.

"We deserve to be criticized in a lot of different areas," Ramsey recently told a gathering of residents focused on crime concerns in Ward 5.

"But the people you see sitting in the room here work very, very hard and when they have to sit through three or four hours of [people complaining about] all the stuff that’s going wrong or they ain’t doing, it doesn’t give them a whole lot of incentive to go out and work for you," the police chief said in defense of his officers at the Second Annual Ward 5 Crime Summit.

The five-hour-long event, organized by Councilman Vin-cent B. Orange Sr. and held June 23 at Gallaudet University, was attended by approximately 200 people. The crowd included numerous advisory neighborhood commissioners and other Ward 5 residents, but about a third of the persons in attendance were uniformed members of the Metropolitan Police Department. Most of the MPD officers sat together – and apart from the rest of the crowd.

Most of the public comments during the session were critical of the police – some for lacking adequate interpersonal communication skills and others for failing to perform what residents feel is their duty as police officers.

Ramsey acknowledged that he, too, has problems with some officers in the troubled department he took over in April 1998. But he urged residents not to base their opinion of the entire police force on a few officers "who leave something to be desired" in their commitment to the job.

"I hate what we call ‘SLAPs.’ Do you know what a SLAP is? If anybody gets offended by one of the words, I apologize up front, but SLAP is ‘Stupid Lazy-Ass Policemen,’" Ramsey said to applause from his audience. "I have never had any tolerance for a SLAP…. Do we have a few? Yes. And unfortunately they tarnish us all.

"But don’t overlook the good [policemen] out there, because there are a lot of good ones out there – the majority of them are good," Ramsey pleaded.

Eleven advisory neighborhood commissioners (ANCs), each representing approximately 2,000 residents in their single-member district, reported on problems in their respective communities during the summit. The issues ranged from police apathy to the usual complaints – crime, drugs, gangs, trash, loitering and prostitution.

ANC 5B10 Commissioner Kathy Henderson, who represents the Kingman Park neighborhood, said the police in her single-member district are withdrawn and that police commitment is needed for her community to effectively fight its persistent problems.

"When the police officer shows up, I want them to actually act like they have a vested interest in improving a community," she said.

ANC 5B03 Commissioner Regina James said police resources in her neighborhood, Brentwood, are limited now and will not be sufficient to fulfill the needs of the area when a large shopping complex opens next year at the site of the city’s former vehicle impoundment lot.

"We are about to have the largest retail development that this city has ever seen and I hope I have more than two or three officers on the street," she said.

Brentwood also continues to battle a prostitution problem, James said. Prostitution rings are operating at 10th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, and also on New York, Montana and West Virginia Avenues, residents said.

Kevin Morison, the police department’s communications director, attributed part of the increased prostitution in Ward 5 to a shifting of those activities from the Logan Circle area, which D.C. police undercover operations have long targeted.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator