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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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crime-related issues for a number of years.

I presently sit in the Juvenile Division of the court, and you start
to see actually before that, when you're in the neglect and abuse
system of the court, the product that we end up seeing in the Adult
Division, and I believe that many of these children are salvageable,
but, unfortunately for a host of reasons, we are not having the im-
pact on children to the extent that we should.

I also feel that one of the biggest problems that we have, which
is a very difficult problem to get at — and it's not something en-
demic to the District of Columbia; it's a national crisis — and that
is the number of children who are being brought into the world by
people who either cannot or will not take the responsibility of ap-
propriately socializing their children. And the end result is you see
what I see in the Juvenile Division and, ultimately, in the Adult
Division. You see people that have no respect for themselves or
anyone else. They have no respect for human life, no respect for
property of others, and, as a result, you have people who are some-
times mindlessly committing crimes without any appreciation or
even carrying about the impact that it has on other people.

I do, as I said, believe that we can impact on the lives of, for ex-
ample, a lot of the children I see. Many of the children I see, unfor-
tunately, at the present time have severe drug addiction problems,
and I think it's a travesty in the Nation's Capital that I cannot as
a judge place a young person who does not have insurance, who
has a drug addiction problem, into a program. There are no drug
programs available for me to put a child who fits in that category,
which are many of the children I see, into a treatment program,
and I think that's tragic because we know what the end result is
going to be. If we can't impact on what is occurring in these chil-
dren s lives as a result of drug addiction, we're going to lose them.

I do think, in reference to our juvenile justice system, for exam-
ple — and I have spoken to Councilman Chavous in reference to my
concerns — that we have to think about how we process cases in-
volving juveniles because I do think that, in order for any institu-
tion of government to be respected, I think the people of the com-
munity nave to feel that that system does, in fact, work for them.
And our juvenile justice system does not work very well in servic-
ing the children who come into the process, and, clearly, doesn't do
well in servicing the communities that are being torn apart by ju-
veniles who are engaging in crime activity.

For example, I had a case two weeks ago, I think it was, that
did receive a fair amount of publicity involving an individual who
had just retired and he was a providing a service for the commu-
nity, driving older people primarily back and forth from the
Safeway store at Hechinger Mall to their homes. And, for some rea-
son, he decided to give two young juveniles a ride, and one of the
juveniles, in order to take this man's money, took out a gun and
shot him, and after getting out of the car then shot into the car
several more times, just to show off for his friends. And this indi-
vidual ended up being prosecuted as a juvenile, and the wife of this
man, who was a long-time resident of the District of Columbia who



128

had made tremendous contributions to the community where this
man and woman hved, wrote me a letter, and she said, "Judge
Walton, it's just unfair." She said, "My husband was a good man.
He was a deacon. He cared about people. He wanted to make a dif-
ference, and, yet, you're telling me that all that you can do is send
this young man to an institution for 6 years." And she said, "My
husband's life was worth more than that, and if the government of
the District of Columbia," she said, "is telling me that that's all his
life is worth, then why should I be a part of this city?" And that's
tragic because we have lost a significant number of our good citi-
zens who have left our city because they've given up on what I
think is one of the greatest cities in the world.

And it's because of my concerns in reference to those issues relat-
ed to iuveniles — I mean, also, I mean, it's just not punishing; it is,
I think, trying to impact on the quality of life for many of our juve-
niles because, when you look into the histories of the lives of many
of these children, it's tragic and it's no wonder that they are pre-
pared to perpetrate the carnage that we see them engaging in.
They just don't have some of the basic ingredients that need to be
given to a child to make that child into a wholesome, law-abiding
citizen.

So I am prepared to answer any questions that the members of
the subcommittee may have, and I'd like to leave as much time for
questions as possible. So I'll stop now. I think I give my own indi-
vidual perspective of some of the things I think need to be looked
at in seeking to address the public safety problems confronting this
city, and I do believe, I guess in closing, that it will be crucial that
the Congress work with the city and the citizens of the city if any
initiatives that are put into place are to have a chance of being ef-
fective, because I think it will be imperative that the citizens of
this city and the public elected officials of this city buy in on what-
ever is decided needs to be done. Otherwise, I think any effort that
doesn't take that approach will be doomed to failure.

Thank you.

[The prepared statement of Judge Walton follows:]



129

Prepared Statement of Hon. Reggie B. Walton, Associate Judge, Superior
Court of the District of Columbia

Like many jurisdictioiis throughout the country, public safety in the District of
Columbia is a major problem. As a resident of the city, I can attest that the fear of
becoming a crime victim is aa ever present concern. And I know from tihe many discussions
I have had with neighbors and citizens throughout the city that crime, and the fear of crime,
have a greater impact on the quality of life for most city residents than any other problem
confronting city residents.

The root of the public safety crisis relates back to the significant number of children
who are brought into the world by parents v^o cannot, or will not, ^propriately parent their
children. The end result is that we have a large number of people in the District of
Columbia who were not appropriately socialized by their parents to function as law abiding
individuals.

I presently preside over juvenile cases and I also am assigned about 60 cases
involving abused and/or neglected children. The profile of the young people I see is
reflective of why the city is experiencing a public safety crisis. Most of the youth I see, and
also the adults I saw when I was assigned to the Court's Criminal Division, arc from single
family homes wfaich are headed by females. That alone would not be so tragic, if the
mothers of the children were capable of independently raising childrerL Unfortunately, they
are noL Many of the mothers I see were merely children when they started having children.
In addition, many of the mothers were themselves the products of single female parent



130



headed families with mothers who were very young when they became parents.

Also, the parentiDg abilities of the mothers are adversely impacted by the fact that
many of them have mental or emotional problems, limited educations, lack financial
resources and have substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs) problems.

The absence of fathers only exacerbates the plight of children growing up in the city.
Not only does their absence contribute to the alarming number of children living in homes
with incomes below the poverty level, but the absence of fathers significantly contributes to
the lack of discipline exercised in many homes. In addition, many of the yoimg men I see
in my courtroom have no appreciation of what it really means to be a man Instead, they
have perverted views about self-esteem, what constitutes appropriate dispute resolution,
fatheihood and a host of other prospectives regarding inter-personal relationships and about
life in general.

The growing number of dysfunctional families, \*^en coupled with the growing
number of neighborhoods that have become virtually controlled by dnigs, gim violence and
other criminal activities are, in my opinion, the major reasons this community is experiencing
a public safety crisis. I have seen many young people who have become involved in
criminal activity as a result of having been consumed by the environments in which they
live. And until the environment in such neighborhoods is improved, all too many people in
this city will continue to be victimized by crime.

Environmental change is obviously difficult to achieve. And institutions other than
the government — the family and the church — are best suited to bring about these changes.
There are, however, things the goveminenl can do to enhance the potential for change. One



131



initiative is already in progress. The City Council recently passed -svclfare reform legislation
that will, among other things, place limitations on the payment of welfare fiinds for
additional children who are produced when a person is already receiving welfare payments.
This, and other proposed changes in existing welfare legislation, will hopefiilly curb the
number of children being produced by people who will not, or cannot appropriately parent
their childrciL If this impact is achieved, it should evcntuaUy have a positive effect on
public safety in the city.

Other efforts to decrease the number of fatherless ^milies should also be pursued
As suggested by David Blankcnhom in his book 'Tathcrless America," and by the National
Fatherhood Initiative, efforts to reform welfare policies that discriminate against mamage and
the presence of men in the home, and tax policies that penalize marriage, should be
considered. Also, the successful efforts of the Cleveland, Ohio based Institute for
Responsible Fatherhood and Revitalizalion, which will soon become operational in the
District of Columbia, should be supported.

Many of the neighborhoods that have been ravished by crime, and where most of the
individuals engaged in crime live, have been left without the stability that middle class wage
owners once brought these neighborhoods. As reported in a recent newspaper report in the
Washington Post (Sunday, June 18, 1995), 186,000 former residents of the District of
Columbia have moved out of the city since 1970. Efforts should be taken to lure the middle
class and businesses back to the city. Unless the city is able to increase its tax base and
provide the role models and stability that middle class wage earners provide to a community,
it will be difBcult to meaningfully impact the pubHc safety crisis, which in my view is



132



closely tied to the economic health of the city. Withom qncstiorL, the aty needs addrtional
money to pay for many public safety activities that need additional fiinding. Taxing pohcy
changes, like diose proposed by Jack Kemp, should be considered as a means of enhancing
the city's tax base. Efforts to improve the city's schools arc also essential if middle class
taxpayers r-"" be expected to move back into the city.

Many of the individi:als I see in both the Juvenile and the Criminal Divisions of the
court, vvere either abused or neglected as children. Many of them were also identified as
abused or neglected children, and are the products of the city's flawed neglect and abuse
system. Efforts must be taken to improve the way we service abused and neglected children.
If we are to deter the increasing number of childien coming through the neglect and abuse
system from later becoming involved in criminal activity, the process for addressing the
needs of such children must be totally overfiauled.

It is also my view that the juvenile justice system needs to be overhauled. After
spending almost six months in the Juvenile Division of the court, I can unequivocally state
that Hie juvenile justice system is not working well. Not only does it generally fail to deter
young people from engaging in criminal activity, it also leaves many victims feeling that
justice was not done because of the leniency received by violent offenders. An example of
this reality was a recent case I bandied where the widow of a first degree murder victim was
outraged by the fact that the offender will be detained for only six years or less. It is
situations like this that cause people to lose faith in oux system of justice and the
government's ability to protect them. I therefore believe that the time has come to re-
evaluate what offenders and what type of cases are appropriate for juvenile prosecution.



133



Moreover, rehabilitative — more correctly habilitative — services provided to juvenile
offenders need to be enhanced. I believe thai many juvenile offenders can be effectively
deterred from committing further crimes if greater efforts are made to impact on their lives.
An example of the deficiency of our rehabilitative efforts is the fact that at present there are
no in-patient drug treatment services available to juvenile offenders who are not covered by
insurance. Such individuals constitute a significant portion of my juvenile case load.

The effectiveness of the city's police force is essential to improving ptiblic safety.
Unfortunately, the morale of the city's police force was shaken by the recent pay cut its
members had to take, and by the restrictions imposed on the officers' ability to receive
overtime pay. Not only has the pay cut adversely impacted morale, it has also caused a
number of seasoned officers to leave the ranks of the Metropolitan Police Department The
end result being that the many members of the force are now young and inexperienced.

Based upon my observations over the past several years, I have seen the quality of
the police department's work-product diminish in some areas. This has occurred despite the
outstanding leadership that has been provided by the outgoing police chief, Fred Thomas.
This, in my view, has occurred because of a reduced budget and the exodus of too many
seasoned police officers. It is therefore my view that, in addition to the need for additional
funding, enhanced training efforts for the department's personnel is sorely needed Not only
are improvements in the policing skills and the investigative abilities of some officers
needed, but some officers need to be trained about how to appropriately testify in court.

The effectiveness of law enforcement in the city could be immediately enhanced if
federal law enforcement agencies which operate in the city could provide greater support to



134

the efforts of the city's police department- Funding by Congress for enhanced federal law
enforcement efforts would probably have an immediaie impact on public safety in the city.

The court's inability to expeditiously adjudicate cases, which in my view adversely
affects public safety because many crimes are committed by individuals who are on pretrial
release, is the product of insufQcient resources to process the large number of cases coming
into the system. For example, as of May 31, 1995, there were 3,222 active felony cases on
Criminal Division calendars, and 1,458 pending juvenile cases. The chief judges of the city's
two courts — the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals — should be consulted on how
they think the process of speeding vp the adjudication of cases can best be achieved.

The ability to effectively prosecute certain cases has been impaired by an mcreascd
level of witness intimidation the city has experienced recently. Steps need to be taken to
ensure that individuals are d i i ginel'^et^ to engage in such activity. Increasing the cost for
engaging in acts of witness intimidation and making otherwise hearsay statements of
in timi dated witnesses admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule should be considered.

F inall y, efforts need to be taken to improve the way we deal with offenders once they
have been convicted. While I do not believe we can change the course of conduct of aU
offenders, I do believe we can do better than we are doing now. Unless we do so,
individuals with criminal records will continue to victimize the people of this community.

It is critical that members of Congress understand that the citizens of the District of
Columbia and its elected ofiBdals must be intricately involved in any effort to address the
city's public safety problem. To be successful, the citizens of the city wiU have to buy-in
on what is being done. I therefore urge the Congress not to take independent actions. Doing



i



135



so would, in my view, doom any action taken by the Congress to &lL

In closing, I want to make it perfectly clear thai the views expressed in my testimoay
are the individual views of a long-time resident of the District of Columbia who has been
involved in the criminal justice process for almost twenty years. They should accordingly
not be construed as the official or unofficial institutional views of the court
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present this testimony.



136

Mr. Davis. Judge, thank you very much.

Let's move right along in alphabetical order with two councilmen.
I'll go with Mr. Brazil. Harold, welcome.

STATEMENT OF HAROLD BRAZIL, COUNCILMEMBER, COUNCIL
OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Mr. Brazil. Well, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here this after-
noon. I didn't know I was going to be able to visit quite so long,
but I am happy to be with my friends on the Hill, Congressmen
Davis, Scott, and Norton.

Mr. Davis. Mr. Brazil, since we're in your district, we thought we
could give you some time.

Mr. Brazil. At least allow me to spend some time in the district.
[Laughter.]

And my district, Ward 6, does encompass all of Capitol Hill, the
Stadium-Armory area, and the historic or old Anacostia. So we're
on the other side of the river as well. So we're very mixed both geo-
graphically and demographically

Mr. Davis. May I ask a question? Jack Evans claims that he has
half the Capitol.

Mr. Brazil. Well, I don't know. It's a subject of some dispute be-
tween the two of us.

Mr. Davis. For purposes of the hearing today, you have it.

Mr. Brazil. He may have a point; I'm not sure. [Laughter.]

On this side, it's the Ward 6 side.

But I would, as the judge did, ask that my testimony be entered
into the record as if read.

Mr. Davis. Without objection, so ordered.

Mr. Brazil. And I would just talk a little bit about some rec-
ommendations that I had for the committee, some of which really
go to this area of resources. I think some of our problems are the
lack of resources, particularly in the police department, which I
refer to as the MPD. There is a manpower problem. People look at
ratios and what-not, and they say, well, you really already have
enough manpower, if you look at similar-sized jurisdictions, et
cetera, the proportion of police to population, and I don't know the
answer to that. I guess we have a different or unique jurisdiction
here with a population swelling to maybe about a million and a
half during a day; functions that they deal with, the President or
the Congress or parades or whatever.

But the problem, as I see it, is on the street, is in the neighbor-
hood, is in the community. The police are not seen. They aren't
present. Their response time is slow. In one way or another, there's
a manpower problem, either because it's a management problem;
there are too many people hiding behind the desk; there are not
enough deployed in the right areas, or there just simply aren't
enough police.

We've got a — I'm interested in the result, and that's more men
and women in blue out there patrolling the neighborhoods and re-
sponding quickly to crime areas, to crime complaints, and to gangs
and groups of folks on the corner all during the night selling drugs,
et cetera. We just — there's not enough police dealing with situa-
tions like that.



137

My recommendation in this area is a comprehensive manage-
ment audit of the police department and the corrections. I think —
and I heard U.S. Attorney Holder this morning on the television,
and he talked about there are management problems; there are ef-
ficiency problems, lack of efficiency, and I think my colleagues will
agree with me in the police department. I mean, they're so clear
in the corrections that I don't need to state them. I think we need
to really document them and come out with what's exactly wrong,
and it might help to solve the manpower problem.

I would suggest that apparently we have around 3,700 police offi-
cers now or in that neighborhood. We had 4,200 authorized not
long ago, and we saw we were getting ahead on some of the statis-
tics; the crime was coming down.

Another problem with the police department is this lack of mo-
rale, and I think they got a real dirty deal, if you will, on this pay
cut. Just parenthetically, I think the pay cut in general for all of
the employees was dumb. We needed to reduce the work force. We
didn't need to cut the pay. But I think the police got hit hard and
some of the other unions got or services got some of their pay re-
stored, and the police never did, and it's killing morale and they're
not as effective as they were. Clearly, that needs to be addressed.

Equipment and technology, I think both police and corrections,
it's evident that they're dealing with insufficient equipment and
technology. Cars, there are not enough cars; they break down, and
sometimes when they have enough people at the station house they
can't get them out there because of this problem with the cars.

This issue of the weapons, I mean, the crooks are better armed
than the police. And I was very disappointed at the council the
other day when there was a deal with one of the manufacturers to
give us new glocks and new magazines for the glocks, and some —
well, for whatever reason, we decided that we wouldn't allow the
police officers to accept new magazines from the manufacturer. I
don't know; is that a huge difference? I don't know. They've got old
clips. Sometimes they jam. They're not as — there's not as many
bullets in them, but they're against — they're operating against peo-
ple that have better weapons and they have larger magazines.

The facilities, when you go to some of these police substations or
the districts, I mean, the wires are coming out; the air-conditioning
doesn't work. They're using typewriters. I mean, it's really awful.

One of the substations that patrols not far'from here, the IDl
substation up at Sixth and E Southeast, the same building that
John Wilkes Booth was taken to and never had any major renova-
tions. I mean, it's still an old building that doesn't work. So my rec-
ommendation is, obviously, more manpower, more equipment, po-
lice, and — equipment for tne police and more technology.

This issue of coordination, I think — and I heard — I've heard a
speaker; I don't know if it was Judge Walton or another earlier
speaker. You have the — and it's particular — it's probably a problem
everywhere getting all the law enforcement agencies together, but
here you have a U.S. prosecutor; the President appoints the judges,
and you've got the police department. You've got all these agencies
that need coordination within the District government, but you also
need to get the Federal agencies, both the U.S. attorney, the FBI,
the DEA — everybody needs better coordination.



138

And when 25 years ago we had an Office of Public Safety, we had
a public safety commissioner, and I think it was a grand idea.
They, I think for political reasons back then — that was right
around the assassination and the rioting and all that, and so they
went away from it, but it's a way of doing two things: No. 1, provid-
ing better coordination intra-District government Taw enforcement
agency, but also intergovemment. And, in addition, I think it's a
way of maybe insulating the police department and the police chief
from so much of the politics, and politics goes on in cities across —
I mean it's just a fact of life. So I think we may need to revisit this
idea again.

This issue of being soft on crime — and I know in my own per-
sonal way, and maybe I'm too tough on crime, if you will, but I've
tried to fight this notion of letting people go too easily for doing
heinous crimes, for selling drugs, or for shooting people, et cetera.
And one recent evidence of it was this repealing of the mandatory


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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 14 of 18)