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On two occasions (“Fight Club,” 11/12/99; Loose Lips, 2/18), your paper has attacked me for criticizing Chief Charles Ramsey and the leadership of the Metropolitan Police Department. I’d like to take this opportunity to respond.
On days when there are no multiple killings in the District, Chief Ramsey informs the media that the MPD is one of the best police forces in the country and that he’s succeeded in turning it around. On the days when grandmothers, children, cabdrivers, and other innocent victims are shot or stabbed to death, Ramsey retreats to his fallback position: Things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. Everyone knows that the MPD is pathetic and its leaders are pitiful, but no one calls him on it.
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I asked Washington City Paper reporter Jason Cherkis why his paper hasn’t published an article reviewing Ramsey’s progress. He said he didn’t think it merited an article. I mentioned Ramsey’s lack of success in improving the performance of the MPD. He replied, “Well, he’s not rotten like [former Chief Larry] Soulsby.” Apparently, incompetence isn’t sufficient for news coverage in D.C.
In one of his articles, Jason Cherkis called me D.C.’s “last angry man.” I have been stereotyped as a police-basher because I expect the police to do their job the same way they do outside Washington, D.C. In the towns and cities on our border, the local governments provide prompt and competent services. The police come when you call them, and they catch the bad guys. When the school buildings get old, these towns and cities fix them or build new ones. The teachers teach the kids to read, write, and do math. The fire engines aren’t old and decrepit. But in Washington, D.C., the government provides minimal services, and no one seems to get very upset. Everyone acts as if our lack of city services were standard, while in fact it is an anomaly.
Chief Ramsey has been here nearly two years. We ought to have seen some improvement in the police department’s leadership and its performance. Considering the conditions in my neighborhood and in this city, I don’t think anger is a bad thing. What surprises me is why everybody else settles for so little from our government. Where’s the outrage? Why is everybody so passive?