From the Washington Post in 1994:
D.C. Police Paying for Hiring BingeThis 1994 article didn’t mention race, but this 1997 Washington Post article finally did:
By Keith A. Harriston and
Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 28, 1994; Page A01
Two ambitions drove Charles Smith in the summer of 1989. The first was to up his income as a member of the R Street Crew, a murderous drug gang. The second was to join the D.C. police force.
By fall, Smith had achieved both.
Smith was locked up in Prince George’s County awaiting trial on drug distribution charges when the letter of acceptance to the police academy arrived at his home. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” Smith recalled his father saying. “I can’t get you out. But you got a job with the police department.”
Smith got himself out. He cooperated with the court and named his drug supplier. Three months later, in November 1989, he donned his blue uniform, swore an oath to uphold the law and began classes as a police cadet – and sold PCP at least once more.
A year and a half later, detectives investigating the R Street Crew caught up with Smith, and he resigned a few months before he would have been eligible to receive his badge and gun.
The tale of how a drug dealer served 18 months as a D.C. police cadet is part of a larger story of breakneck hiring and training by the department in 1989 and 1990 with still unraveling consequences.
The most obvious of those consequences is the worst: An investigation by The Washington Post found that graduates in those two years alone, who make up about one-third of the force, account for:
More than half of the 201 D.C. police officers arrested since 1989 on charges ranging from shoplifting and forgery to rape and murder. Some have been arrested more than once and in more than one year.
More than half of those involved in departmental disciplinary proceedings for breaches such as neglecting duty, making false statements and failing to obey orders, which have doubled since 1989.
Half of those on a list of 185 D.C. officers so tainted by their own criminal problems that prosecutors won’t put them on a witness stand as officers of the law.
The Post reviewed hundreds of court files and internal department records on training and disciplinary actions and interviewed scores of police officers, prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers.
That investigation revealed a system that in 20 months of haste to meet a congressional deadline brought on board 1,471 officers – 40 percent of the force at the time – in a way that hardly provided the best selection of recruits or adequate training for even the most trusted, committed and hardworking in the classes.
Critical background checks on applicants were cut short, and investigators scrimped on visits to neighborhoods and interviews with former employers. Physical examinations were hurried, and some people who failed to meet minimum requirements were hired anyway. The psychological services unit, which had rejected one in five applicants in other years, rejected just one in 20.
During the peak recruiting time, 1,000 people took the police exam each month, and 60 percent of them passed. An additional 1,500 a month signed up for the police cadet program. The department wound up taking one in four comers, Police Chief Fred Thomas said, far more than the one in 12 hired during the early 1980s, and well above the national police average of one in 10. …
Less than a generation ago, the D.C. police department was a national model, flush with federal demonstration dollars and lauded as one of the first in the nation to put female officers on patrol. Officials won praise for the department’s handling of massive protests against the war in Vietnam and crises such as the takeover of three city buildings by a group of Hanafi Muslims in 1977.
But among the current generation of D.C. officers – armed and given authority to make life and death decisions – there are those who have raped and those who have beaten and stolen – from strangers and from each other. There are more than a few whose sense of right and wrong is so tied to a time clock that they say they can’t understand why they should be punished or fired for wrongs they commit off duty.
… Yet the rates at which officers are arrested in other large cities, including New York, pale in comparison with the D.C. figures.
… The hiring spree was a result of congressional alarm over the rising crime rate and the fact that 2,300 officers – about 60 percent of the department – were about to become eligible to retire. Congress voted to withhold the $430 million federal payment to the District for 1989 and again for 1990 until about 1,800 more officers were hired.
In interviews with The Washington Post, elected and department officials in charge during the period of unrestrained hiring faulted everyone but themselves.
D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who was mayor at the time and is seeking election to that office again this year, blamed then-Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., Barry’s own appointee, and Congress. “Ike Fulwood … recruited, screened and made all of the decisions as to who was hired and fired,” Barry said. “Marion Barry did not make any of those decisions.”
Fulwood accused Barry of ignoring pleas to avert the hiring rush by bringing on more officers earlier. …
Without naming Barry, who defeated her in the 1992 Democratic primary, Rolark echoed Fulwood’s criticism of Barry’s inaction. “The council does one thing, and the executive does something else,” Rolark said. “The record speaks for itself.” As for problems that resulted from the hiring and training of the recruits, Rolark said, “That was the police department.”
Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, seeking reelection this year, and Chief Thomas said problems sullying the police department they now command were inherited from Barry and the council. …
Although the vast majority of the officers hired in the rush have not gotten in trouble with the law, one of every 14 officers hired has been arrested.
In the 1970s, Washington’s homicide rate had stabilized at about one-third of today’s homicide rate. The police department was swollen with new recruits, and many lauded it as a national model.The mid-1980s were an era of quite low homicide rates among African-Americans, in between the cocaine war that peaked in 1980 and the subsequent crack war.
But that same force, despite a growing number of top-notch black recruits, remained largely white. And the civil rights and anti-war movement veterans who dominated the first home rule governments — such as Barry and the late council chairman David A. Clarke — viewed it with profound suspicion.
“There was a basic, understandable distrust of authority,” said Dwight Cropp, a professor at George Washington University who once served as a top adviser to Barry. “They saw themselves on the outside, even when they ran the government.”
Gary Hankins, the founder of the police union, recalled meeting with Wilhelmina J. Rolark, who chaired the council’s Judiciary Committee at the time. “She said her job was to maintain control of my occupying army,” Hankins recalled.
Barry, too, favored such rhetoric but exercised his considerable political skills on the department. Any appointment above the rank of captain required his approval. And by 1982, police officers who crossed the mayor — including several involved in investigating allegations of the mayor’s drug use then — found their careers stalling out.
In 1985, the police department stopped evaluating the performance of officers.
“The mayor let it be known who he wanted, and the effect was devastating,” said Stephen D. Harlan, vice chairman of the control board. “There was virtually no one let go because of a lack of performance. People were not rewarded by what they did. It was who you knew that counted.”
Hankins spoke of the effect on morale. “If you were headed to captain, the brighter officers realized it didn’t pay to attend the FBI academy or get advanced schooling,” he said. “You just had to impress someone who had a line to the mayor.”
Barry took issue with that.
“Ninety-eight percent of the time I promoted based on recommendations that came from the chief,” Barry said. “They point fingers now, but the buck should stop at the chief.”
Also, Barry said, he wanted a police force that better reflected the District’s black majority, a goal shared by many in the city. In 1982, he suggested hiring officers by lottery, after they passed a basic test. When Congress rejected that, his department devised tests weighted heavily toward city residents and minorities.
In the mid-1980s, Rolark, as head of the council’s Judiciary Committee, weighed in on the effort to get more city residents and minorities on the force with a police cadet program that enabled hundreds of District high school graduates to join the department, often with scanty or no background checks.
For a time, the department appeared fine. Homicide rates hit a low of 148 in 1985, and a number of top African American recruits entered the force.
Then use of crack cocaine and the number of homicides exploded in 1986 and 1987, overwhelming the department. From 1985 to 1990, Congress and the D.C. Council pumped up the department’s budget from $151 million to $250 million, a 65 percent increase.A federal coup, in effect.
But little of that money went for equipment, computers and training. Instead, Congress, acting against Barry’s wishes, mandated that the city hire 1,500 recruits in less than two years.
“I agreed with Marion — he didn’t want more officers,” said Patrick V. Murphy, the city’s former public safety director who now heads the Police Policy Board for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “The problem was they weren’t spending and managing it properly.”
The river of new recruits had a devastating effect on an already politicized department. Many later were found to have criminal backgrounds. Graduates of the 1989 and 1990 classes accounted for half of the 201 officers arrested in the next three years on charges running from shoplifting to rape and murder.
In 1990, Barry was convicted of a misdemeanor after he was caught smoking crack in a hotel room. After years of whispers and rumors, the conviction rattled the department deeply. “It was common knowledge for years that the mayor was out of control,” Hankins said. “And that was our boss.”
Here’s civil libertarian Stuart Taylor’s 1990 denunciation of the feds’ entrapment of the Mayor.
The voters of DC elected Barry again in 1994 after he got out of prison, but by then there had been a turning point and the chance of the nation’s capital slipping out of the federal governments’ grasp into East St. Louis-style collapse had passed. The 1990 DC coup marks a landmark in the elites’ war to retake the cities from the black underclass and their politicians.
But let’s not think about what has happened in Washington and New York when much more important cities like Ferguson and Sanford, FL are what really matter.