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Combating crime in the District of Columbia : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, June 22, 1995 online

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a different type of law enforcement. And I came to a realization
many, many, many years ago that we can't solve the crime prob-
lem; the police can't. And it takes the people to do that with us as-
sisting them. The neighborhood has to know that we can't do it.



109

You can do it. You turn on your light and crime decreases. We
study crime statistics on burglaries and we see burglaries happen
at night. There are a lot of burglaries that happen in the day as
well, but when we turn on the light, we see crime decrease. And
folks in a community are the light of a community; it's called toler-
ance or nontolerance, and the criminal element knows this; most
of the criminal element knows this. There's some criminal ele-
ments, some parts of the criminal element that don't care, the real
hardcore criminal element. You know as much about that as I do,
probably more.

And I feel — I feel it's doable in D.C. I asked the chief the first
time we sat down and spoke, and he wasn't sure where I was com-
ing from. And, basically, my first two meetings were just to con-
vince the chief and Eric Holder and the Judge, Judge Walton at
that time, and then Judge Hamilton, that I'm not coming in to
Washington, DC, to run a police department.

Excuse me. I'll have to call a recess. I will be back in 5 minutes.

[Recess.]

Mr. Heineman. I'd like to call this session back in order and fin-
ish my remarks, just to let you folks know where this D.C. over-
sight task force is coming from. And I spoke to the chief and to Eric
Holder and two of the judges to let them know that my job is a
support role; my job is to help them get the things they need to
do what they say needs to be done.

And I was given a laundry list of needs, and they all looked fa-
miliar to me. I think those needs are shared by most cities in ex-
tremist, and I intend to follow through on those things that I told
them I would do. I intend to support them to the ultimate, and,
hopefully, be — hopefully, be the most active cheerleader that I've
ever been. I'm not here to run the police department. The chief,
Chief Thomas, knows more about policing here in this District than
I do, although he's left. Now we're going to have an interim chief,
and I'm going to work with him as best I can to do what needs to
be done here in this District. And the Speaker of the House is ada-
mant about changing the quality of life in this city for the people
that live here, the people that come here. This is the capital of the
world without question, and I don't know — I don't know if there
was a breakdown under the previous chief. I don't know what your
perceptions, Mr. Foreman, as far as community policing was. I can
assure you that's going to get a very good look-see very shortly by
the interim chief and those people that will work with him. It's ex-
tremely important for you to know that we care, and, hopefully —
hopefully — this is going to be the city you want it to be.

Now this is just criminal justice. I am relegated to the task of
criminal justice oversight, and that's bad word to use, "oversight."
And I've tried as hard as I can, speaking to the council individ-
ually, to let them know that they're running this city, that I'm not
running this city where criminal justice is concerned. I sat for a
while with Ms. Norton, and, hopefully, made some inroads in that
regard. This is not my city. I'm here as an ex-oflficio Member of
Congress to do what you folks tell us really needs to be done,
whether it be equipment for the police department, radios, walkie-
talkies, computers, things that perhaps your organization, Mr.



no

Foreman, and others like yours feel you need equipment to do the
job.

We had, likewise, Community Watch; we had community work-
ers, and community workers, we were able to give them walkie-
talkies, no guns, walkie-talkies and walk in pairs. We did this a
long time ago in New York, and they did it during the Second
World War. Now you may not remember that, but I was around
during the Second World War.

Mr. Foreman. I was, too. [Laughter.]

Mr. Heineman. I missed the First World War by not a lot.
[Laughter.]

But there's a lot of things that can be done, and I'm excited
about it. I'm very excited about it because in this city you can see
things changing because there are horror stories here. There are
horror stories in every large city, but they seem to be happening
more frequently here than most other places. And with the number
of law enforcement agencies here, certainly we bring them together
and ask them, "What can you do for us? How can you alleviate our
problems?"

I know there are money problems here in the District, and I
know the morale of the police department is devastated because of
the pay cuts, as other agencies as well. That, coupled with turn-
over, coupled with some bad publicity at times, coupled with lack
of equipment, I think with all of those things on their shoulders,
that they're doing an excellent job as a police department. And in
any police department you can pick out rotten apples. I've had
mine; I've gotten rid of mine; I've hired them and I was their alpha
and omega. They came in because I hired them by mistake, and I
fired them on purpose.

That's not — that doesn't say that you're unique here in this Dis-
trict, but I'm excited about my role. I'm excited about the role that
Eric is going to play. I'm excited about the role that Judge Hamil-
ton is going to play. We're for real. We want to make a difference
here, and we can't do it without you folks, without the neighbor-
hood knowing and wanting to do it, because it shows; the criminals
know that. If you're just going to be part of the woodwork and
watch, they're going to crawl all over you, but if you're going to
stand up and take a position, it matters. And I'm just excited about
this.

I thank you so much for coming today, and, hopefully, we can
work together. I mean, this isn't the end for you people. I hope this
is just the beginning, so that we can network in a community polic-
ing mode, community policing concept. There are many faces of
community policing. You have to tailor it to the — you have to tailor
it to the community.

So I hope to be able to work with the next chief, the interim
chief, and also Eric Holder and the judges, and do for them what
they need to be done so that they can do their job.

And, again, thank you so much for coming today.

Mr. Foreman. Thank you.

Mr. Heeneman. OK Our fourth witness — and he will comprise
the whole panel — is Chief of the U.S. Park Police, Chief Langston,
a long-time veteran of the Park Police who was appointed chief in
September 1991. He's responsible for a force of 655 officers and 125



Ill

civilian employees assigned to National Park Service parkways,
monuments, and memorials in the greater Washington, DC, area,
as well as other Park Service areas.

A graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor's degree
in police administration, he began his U.S. Park Police Service in
August 1965 as a patrolman covering foot, cruiser, and motorcycle
beats. Active in numerous civic and professional organizations, the
Washington, DC, native remains a member of the Bethesda-Chevy
Chase Rescue Squad and is a member and past president of its
board of directors. Chief Langston has received numerous awards
and honors for his professional contributions, including election to
the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Hall of Fame. Quite im-
pressive. Chief.

I thank you for coming today and being part of this, hopefully,
new day in Washington, DC, where we can all work together and
hope to have a great deal of success in restoring the city to where
it should be in this world, the capital of the world, and the people
in it, to a better quality of life than they've experienced.

Did you bring a remarks, written remarks?

STATEMENT OF ROBERT E. LANGSTON, CHIEF, U.S. PARK

POLICE

Chief Langston. Oh, I did, Mr. Chairman. Of course, I'm per-
plexed whether I should call you chief or Mr. Chairman now. We
have to

Mr. Heineman. Call me chief.

Chief Langston. OK. I know you like that.

I do have some prepared remarks. And, first of all, let me say
it's a pleasure to be here before you. This is my city, Washington,
DC. I was born and raised in the city, and it's a honor for me to
sei^e as the Chief of the U.S. Park Police.

The number of Park policemen that we have assigned in the
Washington, DC, area is 520. The rest are outside of that area in
San Francisco and New York and scattered throughout the United
States as advisers, and, of course, that 520 that are assigned here
also patrol in the 11 jurisdictions surrounding, including Washing-
ton, DC, but also Arlington and Fairfax and Alexandria and Staf-
ford County, Anne Arundel County, Prince Greorges, and all the
surrounding jurisdictions.

I did not realize that you had a resume, and I was going to tell
you a little bit about myself on this, so I can forego that. But the
U.S. Park Police is one of the oldest law enforcement organizations
in the country. It was formed in 1791 by a board of directors estab-
lished by George Washington, but we're very unique in that we're
an urban law enforcement organization under the National Park
Service, Department of Interior. And the National Park Service ba-
sically has two entities in law enforcement, the National Park
Service rangers and the U.S. Park Police. We excel in urban law
enforcement. That's our forte, and with that we're very comfortable.
We're in the recreation, in the national recreation area up in New
York City. Approximately 100 officers are assigned up there, and
we've just recently taken over the protection for the Statue of Lib-
erty; also, in San Francisco, CA, the large urban recreation there



112

in the city of San Francisco patrolled by — and the Presidio — now
patrolled by approximately 100 ofTicers.

Within the Washington, DC, area itself, approximately 22 per-
cent of the land mass is a national park, and we're responsible for
that portion of it. We provide the full range of law enforcement
services, including investigations, detectives, patrol, aviation, ev-
erything that a normal urban police department would encompass.

You're aware that this Nation's Capital, not only do we have a
large residential area, but we attract some 40 million annual visi-
tors, both national and international visitors, that come to visit our
monuments, our memorials, or participate in the activities of every
day here in Washington, DC. At the base of the Capitol here as you
look out over the expanse of The Mall, obviously, that's a national
park, and we're dedicated to protect those citizens that are in the
national park area, but not only the monumental corps; as you look
out in Anacostia, some large parks in Anacostia are under protec-
tion of the Park Police. Through every element of this city, whether
it's in Georgetown, through the C&O Canal, it's in Northeast or
Northwest or Southwest, we have large urban parks that we main-
tain in a safe and proper condition, and I think we do a pretty good
job. I think Anacostia, one of our Anacostia parks right to the river
is one of the safest parks within the city, and we need to be able
to have the residents feel comfortable when they come into the
parks, so that they can relax and recreate and partake in it.

We work with every agency that's in this city, whether it's a city
agency, a Federal agency, or the State agencies outside. We have
65 memoranda of understandings for cooperation with various ju-
risdictions and local agencies. We also provide law enforcement
services to entities such as the Smithsonian. We provide their full
range of police services, the Holocaust Memorial, the Kennedy Cen-
ter, Arlington National Cemetery, and many others that expand be-
yond the Washington, DC, area. So not only do we provide those
services within the National Park Service areas, but also areas like
the gallery of art museums and what have you. But we do that by
memorandum of understanding with those organizations.

I think you can see that there's a variety of our crimefighting ef-
forts that are traced through these memoranda of understandings,
and we're very pleased that we've been able to do it. I want to give
you an example of what we've been doing over the last couple of
years, and Ms. Norton is certainly aware of our activities in the
crimefighting up in the fifth district with Metropolitan police,
where when President Clinton denied the National Guard assist-
ance to the city, the President brought forth all the Federal en-
forcement agencies and asked what was it we could do to provide
relief to the city and the crime-infested areas.

At that time we developed what we thought we could do. We
were at that time about 43 officers short, if I recall. We told Chief
Thomas, and we sat down with him and said, "This is what we will
do with you. You give us an assignment and we'll provide 50 offi-
cers to reduce crime in that area." He gave us the two roughest sec-
tions, two districts or two sections within the fifth district. We de-
ployed 50 officers to work 24 hours a day for 8 months. We reduced
crime up there by 65 percent in those two sectors.



113

The thing that was so marvelous about it is that it allowed peo-
ple to come out, back out on the porches of their homes to sit and
not be fearful of drive-by shootings. It also allowed people to walk
on the street, for the kids to play on the sidewalk, to utilize their
residential area in a safe situation. We moved the drug havens
somewhere. Obviously, they moved, probably to another part of the
city.

But we went at that very effectively. Officers were trained to
deal in the community, and they worked very well with the com-
munity. When we deactivated that task force, I had mothers and
fathers, actually had young kids, come up to me and ask that we
not deactivate it. Obviously, it cost us a lot. As a matter of fact,
it cost the Park Police significantly to provide that personnel for
that length of time in order to reduce that crime. We ended up giv-
ing up about two recruit classes in that endeavor because of the
overtime costs that we had to incur.

But, nevertheless, we were effective in taking hundreds of guns
off the street, solving several homicide cases. I think we recovered
over 163 stolen vehicles; many of them were occupied. And we went
up there with the attitude that we meant business. There were no
personnel complaints. There was just nothing but tremendous sup-
port from the community, and we have a very fond feeling for that
particular section of the city.

I do have — I have been advised that you're interested in there
particular questions or issues: what is the crime problem in the
District of Columbia as seen by the Park Police? And if I — I'm not
sure what my time limit is here. If you have a big gong or a red
light or something you'd like to impose upon me, please tell me and
I'll curtail my comments.

Juvenile crime as well as crime associated with drug and gang
violence are so prevalent in the area that many people are afraid
to visit our Nation's Capital. Compounding this problem is a failure
to hold people accountable for their actions. We hear about social
and economic conditions that provide fertile grounds for crime, but
often we overlook the fact that crime is an act by a person who,
for whatever reason, made a conscious decision to inflict bodily or
economic harm on another person.

Major factors in high crime in this area include easily available
alcohol and drugs, not only to adults, but to minors. Quality-of-life
crimes such as disorderly conduct, urinating and defecating in pub-
lic, and public intoxication makes visiting many of these areas not
only unsafe, but unhealthy. And if you look around at the National
Park areas, we pay special attention to the quality-of-life crimes.
You don't see panhandlers coming up and bothering you.

I must admit that I really supported the new mayor of New York
City when his first action was to do away with the squeegee people
up there in the city, where they would come and wash your win-
dows and demand money, and if you didn't give in to their de-
mands, they would then rake a key or something down your car or
somehow vandalize your property. This is just a form of extortion
and robbery, and that's what we try to do with the people who are
in the cities, to try to make the park areas as safe as we can.

Now our officers, as they travel throughout the city, have the
same powers and authority as the Metropolitan police officer. Con-



114

gress, in their wisdom, back in the late 1800's gave to the U.S.
Park Pohce the same powers and duties as the Metropolitan police
officer. And that wisdom I think shows because we not only will ar-
rest for a crime that occurs on a national park, but as we see
crimes occurring throughout the city our officers will stop and take
the action and make the arrest and bring the subject to court with-
in the District of Columbia system. I think it's very effective.

All of our tickets, our parking tickets, our crime, all the fines
come back into the city of Washington, DC, roughly about $6 or $7
million in revenue. We feel that we're an integral part of the city
law enforcement program, and we work very closely with not only
Washington Metropolitan Police, but the other agencies that are in
the District.

The epidemic of crack cocaine has wrecked havoc on the District
of Columbia. The rival gangs that roam the street are quite evi-
dent. We were very involved in drug apprehension and programs.
Our organization, the U.S. Park Police, if you look at the Council
of Governments' statistics that have just been published, you will
see that our force, among all of the 19 jurisdictions I believe that
are in the cog region, is No. 3 in the apprehension of the sales of
drugs and the manufacture of drugs. We get very involved in this
type of activities. We are on many of the task forces that are put
together by ATF and DEA, the Mass Transit Task Force where
people are using mass transit to bring drugs into the city, and
we're also on the new ATF Task Force and the HYDA Task Force.
We participate fully in all of these.

Now if you'll feel free to ask a question, I'll stop at any time, but
I only have a little bit more.

Mr. Heineman. We'll have time for questions.

Chief Langston. Pardon?

Mr. Heineman. We'll make time.

Chief Langston. OK To protect turf drug gangs carrying weap-
ons and fire power that is equal to or not greater than — or many
times greater than what our officers are carrying — there's little re-
spect for police officers in the performance of his or her duties, as
evidenced by the recent slaying of the Metropolitan police sergeant
and two FBI agents in the Metropolitan police headquarters, and
the stalking and shooting of several Metropolitan police officers,
the murder of a Prince Georges County officer and the execution-
style murder of an FBI agent who was attempting to apprehend a
stalker. This is incredible when you sit down and you think about
the loss of life just from that.

Oflen automobiles are stolen by joy-riding and showboating use.
They steal cars in order to — some of them are — actually, people
place orders for certain types of vehicles and they go out and sell
them. We had one young boy that we arrested down at Mt. Vernon
who we have closed over 35 cases of stolen autos. He led us to the
chop shops and the fences that he was selling these cars and auto
parts through, and he let — he had been apprehended a number of
times, but was never issued or never given any sentences. And if
you have one of these that can steal that many cars and do that
much havoc within an area, I think it's time to get tough.

The penalties for stealing a car are so lenient that many times
the defendants are placed in probation because the offense is cat-



115

egorized as a property crime. In a court system which is overbur-
dened and jail space in the District of Columbia which is at a pre-
mium, many car thieves are let go, just a slap on the wrist. Unfor-
tunately, many criminals apprehended are set free before the ar-
resting officer even completes their paperwork. All these factors im-
pact tne quality of life in the District of Columbia, including our
national parks and our monuments and our tourists.

We organized to fight crime in the District of Columbia. We're or-
ganized as normal police departments are. The backbone of our or-
ganization is a 24-hour patrol branch, where officers are patrolling
on a variety of methods — by cars, motorcycles, scooters, horseback,
bicycles. We have a very active criminal investigation branch that
includes detectives and investigators, plain clothes officers, that are
patrolling 24 hours a day. We use a lot of overcoat and plain
clothes officers in dealing with our stakeouts in the area, looking
for crime.

[The prepared statement of Chief Langston follows:]



116

Prkpared Statkmknt of Rohkrt E. I^ngston, Chikk, U.S. Park Polick

Good morning ladies and gentlemen:

I am Robert E. Langsion. and I have been the Chief of the United Slates Park
Police since September 1991. { have been in law enforcement for 29 years
with most of this time being spent right here in Washington, DC.

For those of you who are not familiar with the United States Park Police, we
are one of tJie oldest law enforcement agencies in the country and were
originally created by President George Washington in 1791. The United
States Park Police is a unique, urban, law enforcement agency that is a pan
of the National Park Service. We are the only uniformed. Federal police
agency that provides a full-range of law enforcement services in the United
States.

Withm the District of Columbia, Park Police officers have the same powers
as officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Our fundamental mission
is to provide law enforcement services to federal park lands, which account
for 22% of the land mass in Washington DC. As you are aware, the
Nation's Capital attracts more than 40 million visitors annually, which
significantly in^pacts the law enforcement services provided by the
Metropoliun Police and the U.S. Park Police.

Over the years, the Force has grown in size and its duties and responsibilities
have expanded. Members of the Force not only patrol national park lands in
tlie District of Columbia and the environs of Maryland and Virginia, but in
1972 Field Offices were established at the Gateway National Recreation Area
in Brooklyn, New York, and at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in
San Francisco, California.

The United States Park Police is a full-service police department and
currently has an authorized strength of 689 sworn law enforcement officers
consisting of cruiser, scooter, motorcycle, horsemounted, bicycle, marine,
aviation/medevac, foot, K-9. special weapons and tactics, and detective units.
The Force is also responsible for providing professional law enforcement
advisors in each National Park Service region in the country.

The United States Park Police consistently works in a cohesive maftner with
various law enforcement agencies and community groups to suppress crime in
the Washington, D.C., area. The success of our crime fighting efforts can be
traced through the numerous mutual aid agreements and memorandums of
understanding we have throughout the area.



117



ISSUE li HhAt la tb« crln« problam in the District of Columbia as
seen by tbe United States Parte Police?

Crime and its attendant ills are the major problems facing the
nation today. Citizens and visitors to the nation's capital are
concerhed for their safety -in their residences and on the streets
of the city. Juvenile crime, as well as crime associated with
associated with drugs and gang violence, are so prevalent in this
area that many people are in fear of visiting our Nation's Capital.
Compounding this problem is the failure to hold people accountable
for their actions. We hear a lot about social and economic
conditions that provide the fertile ground for crime. Often
overlooked is the critical point that crime is am act by a person
who, for whatever reasons, made a conscious decision to inflict
bodily or economic harm on another person.

Easy availability of illegal drugs in general and alcoholic
beverages to minors in particular are major factors in the high
level of crime in this area. "Quality of life crimes", such as
disorderly conduct, urinating and defecating in public, and public
intoxication, make visiting mamy areas not only unsafe but also


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JCombating crime in the District of Columbia : hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, June 22, 1995 → online text (page 12 of 18)