Chief Charles Ramsey is finally catching up to Hollywood.

Saturday-night homebodies have seen how a state-of-the-art D.C. police force operates. In CBS’s The District, police chief Jack Mannion, played by “Coach” Craig T. Nelson, rallies his underlings to fight dope pushers, Russian mobsters, and Vietnamese sex-slavery traders. Some of the best scenes take place in a techie sanctum called the COMSTAT room (for “computer statistics”), where the brass gather to chart the movements of the latest serial murderer on flashy maps of D.C.

When The District debuted in 2000, the real D.C. police force had no counterpart to COMSTAT. The long technophobic Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) still hadn’t fully automated the filing of arrests and was struggling to equip cruisers with functional “mobile digital computers.”

No matter: The District apparently convinced MPD Chief Charles Ramsey that he couldn’t curb real crime without Hollywood gizmos. Accordingly, the department has sunk $7.2 million into its own version of COMSTAT. The computer control room, located at MPD headquarters, was conceived to coordinate the activities of the FBI, Secret Service, and MPD and will get an extended workout this week thanks to the protests over both World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies and the conflict in the Mideast.

MPD officials deny that their new room is a little-screen copycat. “I’ve never watched that program,” says MPD’s Law Enforcement Intelligence Coordinator Neil Trugman. Herewith, a side-by-side comparison of the two models. CP

The District

Computer Statistics, aka “COMSTAT”

Inspiration: The COMSTAT system was developed in 1994 by Jack Maple, then deputy police commissioner of the New York City Police Department, who died last August. Maple was the co-creator of The District.

Debut: Oct. 7, 2000


Capacity: 35

Chair Quality: Recycled auditorium seating

Podium Count: 2

Computer Screen Count: 3

Crime-fighting Technology: ArcView Geographic Information System mapping software.

Intangibles: Cool sound effects, leadership qualities of Chief Mannion

Metropolitan Police Department

Joint Operations Command Center, aka “JOCC” (pronounced “Jock”)

Inspiration: None. “We were not inspired by [The District] at all,” says Trugman. The name wasn’t inspired by anything else, either, Trugman adds. “It’s called the Joint Operations Command Center because that’s what it is.”

Debut: Sept. 11, 2001


Capacity: 36

Chair Quality: Black mesh adjustable Aeron seats with cutting-edge ergonomics. Retail price: $900.00.

Podium Count: 1

Computer Screen Count: 22

Crime-fighting Technology: Mapping software of unspecified provenance

Intangibles: White phone that dials directly to the office of Peter LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency; video screen that rises out of the armrest of Ramsey’s chair (unit doesn’t work yet)