The MPD hits the protest lottery.
Charles Ramsey is a great salesman. To protect the District and its citizens from the mayhemand puppetsthat some fear will result from protests against next month’s International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank meetings, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) chief has persuaded city officials, the federal government, and the Washington Post’s editorial board that writing the MPD a $30.6 million check for two days of intensive policing is the right thing to do.
So how did Ramsey manage his sales feat? Taking a page from President George W. Bush’s playbook, Ramsey developed a taste for impending doom, cozied up to hyperbole, and mastered fuzzy math in his chase for the dollars. The essential steps to paydirt:
Make some Molotov cocktails As he did before last year’s IMF protests and January’s Bush inaugural festivities, Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer played up the possibility of flying balls of fire. This time out, he told the Post: “People who want to break windows and torch cars and throw rocks and throw Molotov cocktails will be substantially small.” (Shorter than 5 feet?)
Raise the Starbucks specter At a press conference last Friday, Ramsey stated: “The odds of us escaping without any property damage of any kind is probably fairly low.”
Enlist the mayor In an Aug. 6 letter to President Bush, Mayor Anthony A. Williams stayed rigidly on message: “Intelligence information indicates that the protests and demonstrations surrounding this IMF/World Bank meeting will be of an intensity, scope, and magnitude that we have never seen in this city,” the mayor wrote, foretelling an event that, presumably, will eclipse the civil-rights rallies of the ’60s and the Million Man March. Asked for a comment on the letter, Williams’ deputy director for communications, Sharon Gang, referred questions to MPD spokesperson Sgt. Joe Gentile. Gang says that the mayor is relying on Ramsey’s judgment and “tactics.”
Fan inflation On Aug. 17, Gainer told the Post that the number of protesters would near 50,000. That same day, Ramsey doubled the figure to 100,000. Reached later that afternoon by phone, Gainer put the number at 40,000 to 60,000.
The two-day protest promises to be an urban renewal project for city cops, despite the fact that the amount the MPD is asking for has dropped from its original request of $38 million. There will be plenty of overtimeand a lot spent on cool accessories to boot, including $1.9 million for fireproof suits and helmets (at $1,200 per officer); $2,500 for bullhorns; $9,000 for amplifiers; $1,800 for video cameras; $1,500 for bean-bag and rubber bullets; $400,000 for new gas masks (the department’s old ones didn’t pass muster with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration); and $1.8 million to $4 million for security fences. There will also be $800,000 spent on food and water, and another $11.2 million to import 3,000 additional cops.
Whatever the force doesn’t use, it gets to keep, Gainer says. “You bet the money could be spent on other things,” he observes. “I’d rather see all the governments who had to spend money on the cleanups spend it on the homeless. That would be better for all of us.”
In the spirit of such beneficence, here’s what else that $30.6 million could buy:
•At 90 cents per meal, D.C. Central Kitchen Inc. could make 34 million free meals for the poor and homeless. At $3,370 per job-seeker, the nonprofit could train and place 9,080 homeless men and women in food-service jobs.
•The Neighborhood Legal Services Program pays its lawyers $30,000 a year to represent tenants and the poor. The IMF-World Bank policing monies could boost the program’s staff of 12 by 1,020 additional lawyers.
•Think one Corpzilla float was enough? At a cost of $20,000 (including labor), Mobilization for Global Justice could build 1,530 Corpzillas to cruise downtown.
•Tired of the MPD’s horrendous homicide closure rate of about 36 percent? Embarrassed that the department still can’t find Chandra? The protest cash could boost the police force by 792 detectives at a base salary of $38,614.
•With a $10 exchange fee, more than 3 million citizens could receive “Taxation Without Representation” license plates. CP