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Police Chief Charles Ramsey dismantled the department’s gun squadlock, stock, and barrel. Ramsey’s much-anticipated headquarters housecleaning is moving detectives working in downtown units like Homicide and the gun squad out to the seven police districts. Before its breakup, the nine-member gun unit was responsible for investigating and arresting gun runners. The officers will now form mini-units within Ramsey’s “focus-mission teams” at each district. Gun squad members believe that Ramsey’s shift will largely misfire. “It’s ridiculous when homicides are up99.9 percent of them are gun-related,” says one officer. “[The move] is not going to work.” But Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer argues that the gun unit lacked the manpower and quantitative results to justify its existence. The unit seized only 196 guns in the last 14 months, according to Gainer. Gun squad veterans believe those numbers prevented more bloodletting on D.C. streets. “The direction they’re taking is completely wrong,” says the officer.
A Place at the Table Once again, federal needs trump the District’s: Last week, Donna Brazile, chief of staff to D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, announced that she’s taking a leave of absence beginning in June to serve as deputy campaign manager and national political director for Vice President Al Gore’s presidential bid. Brazilewho rebuffed earlier opportunities to work for the Barry and Williams administrationssays Gore made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “When the vice president wins, I’ll be right there at the table to help the District of Columbia,” she says. “I’m going to miss my local stuff, but I plan to find a way to make you all national.” Brazile says she will start during the campaign by pushing the Democratic National Committeeas well as Goreon D.C. voting rights and statehood.
Must Not-See TV “We’re warehousing students like we’re warehousing criminals,” declared Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous, whose statement elicited a burst of applause from the audience. “There needs to be flexibility, but there also need to be rules,” countered At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil. A recent D.C. Council hearing? Nope. A mayoral debate? Too late. The fireworks erupted during a taping for an upcoming Court TV series, America’s Children at Risk. The councilmembers clashed American Gladiator-style over moderator Arthur Miller’s hypothetical playground fight involving two boys, one Swiss army knife, and little blood. Not all panelists approached the proceedings with such vigor, though. At one point, Millerwho pranced around the auditorium holding a white teacuppointed to Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy and proclaimed, “You’re deep in thought.” “No, I’m not,” Murphy replied from the stage. “I just think this scenario is silly.” The episode will air later this spring.
Canned Nonresponse This spring, the Department of Public Works, in partnership with the D.C. Soft Drink Association and the D.C. Coalition for Comprehensive Recycling, printed 110,000 copies of a colorful guide to District recycling, which included a boldfaced phone number for the Sanitation Information Center. The project carried a price tag of $9,300. But when a reporter called the number, there was no answer or recording after 25 rings. “I’m not quite sure what to say about that,” says department spokesperson Linda Grant, who adds that the department is in the process of transferring calls to the mayor’s new all-in-one service number.
Religious Expression At the April meeting of advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) 2C, chair Lawrence Thomas read a letter from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, which asked commissioner Leroy Thorpe to apologize for a March outburst in which he called At-Large Councilmember David Catania a “faggot.” The letter further requested that the ANC renounce Thorpe’s bigotry. Thorpe countered that he made the slur because he believed Catania had made a reference to Muslims as “dirty.” “I am not a racist,” Thorpe added. Later that evening, the commission unanimously elected Thorpe the ANC’s recording secretary.
Reporting by Jason Cherkis, Laura Lang, and Elissa Silverman.
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