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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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drafted, that there would have to be an advisory board that the po-
lice were involved in, the courts were involved in, the prosecutors
were involved in, the schools were involved in. So that the council
or whoever made this decision would then get this input of how to
spend it, and I suspect the political pressure would be pretty strong
to spend it the way that group had recommended. But we would
want to tailor it so you didn't just see somebody throwing it out

Chief Thomas. And then my other concern would be that if the
police department received a block grant, I would not want to see
the appropriate dollars offset by the block grant. If we got a block
grant for $10 million, that we would not then have our appro-
priated dollars reduced by a corresponding amount.

Mr. McCoLLUM. No, I understand. I understand completely, and
we have a segregated fund just for this purpose right now in the
big national picture, but, as I say, it's in hot political debate, and
perhaps we could segregate out still further just something specifi-
cally for D.C. And I just raise that as a possibility. I don't know
where we go with it, but it's a thought, a seed to plant, and per-
haps Chief Heineman and his task force can work with you and we
can work with them to see if that's possible.

At this point in time I'm going to recognize Chief Heineman, and
then I will, after I've turned the gavel over to him, if he can come
on down here, it would probably be the best thing to do because
I do have to go down to the Banking Committee, and I'm going to
let him run most of this hearing today.

But thank you, gentlemen, and

Judge Hamilton. Thank you, Mr. McCollum.

Mr. Holder. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chief Thomas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Heinkman [presiding]. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me explain why they call me Chief Heineman instead of Con-
gressman. No. 1, I prefer they do. [Laughter.]

And, No. 2, I came here from being a chief of police for the past
15 years in Raleigh, NC. And I had the pleasure of interviewing


these folks now on the panel and we had very good dialog. And for
the purpose of the hearing, I'd just like to ask some questions rel-
ative to the court system.

Do you have a drug court in D.C.?

Judge Hamilton. Yes, sir. We have a drug court which has been
federally funded. It's been in operation now for about a year. The
statistics of the results of the operation of the drug court have been
in — are in my full statement, Chief Heineman, and the results
have been very, very outstanding.

In the sanctions track, for example, if we start out with 100 per-
cent of the people on that track, as we do, being substance ad-
dicted, by the end of 5 months about 15 percent of those people are
consistently clean; that is, on a urine test.

Mr. Hkineman. Thank you. Would you recommend expanding it?
I mean, is it on overload or is it adequate for the District?

Judge Hamilton. No, it is on overload. We do need to cut down
the caseloads that the judges are carrying on that court. They're
tremendously overworked. We only have three judges who are
working in the drug court. We probably need about two, two addi-
tional ones on that court.

Mr. Heineman. Is there enough drug — is there enough courtroom
space to handle that?

Judge Hamilton. No, sir, there isn't. We do not have the court-
room space.

Mr. Heineman. Well, Mr. Holder, as it relates to the drug courts,
does that help your position as a prosecutor?

Mr. Holder. Yes, I think it does. It allows us to move prosecu-
torial resources toward that part of the drug trade that we really
need to attack, and that is people who are dealing in mass quan-
tities of drugs, people who are really associated with violence. And
what you see in DC — and what I saw as a judge — are substantial
numbers of people who get arrested on the street for selling drugs,
small amounts of drugs in a nonviolent way, and they're selling
drugs in order to support drug habits. The drug court intervenes
there, I think, very effectively. By doing that, getting those people
basically out of our sights, it allows us to move prosecutors toward
those areas where as I said, we have our greatest concern, and that
is with regard to people who deal in big quantities who are not ad-
dicted. They're doing it for truly economic reasons, and you see a
lot of violence associated with that.

Mr. Heineman. Can you give us an assessment of the minimum
sentencing repeal? What is your feeling on that?

Mr. Holder. I've actually got two feelings on that. I testified be-
fore the city council in opposition to the repeal. It was my feeling
that there is a need for mandatory minimum sentencing with re-
gard to drug-related crimes. One, drugs have had a devastating ef-
fect on this community. Now if you look at these statistics, you will
see that in 1986, when people generally agree that crack cocaine
was introduced into the city, there was an escalation in the amount
of violent crime in the city. As I say in my statement, I think that
the increase in the amount of violent crime that we have seen in
the last few years is attributable to the drug trade. So I think for
that reason there is a need for the certainty of punishment.


Beyond that, I think mandatory minimum sentences have a posi-
tive effect on the drug court. A certainty of punishment allows
judges to, in essence, tell people you have options. You will either
certainly go to jail or you have the option of getting into treatment
as part of what we're doing in the drug court, and I think it's an
extremely important part of that.

I will say, however, as a D.C. resident and a person who believes
very strongly in home rule, I was treated very fairly by the city
council. Our staffs worked together. I was listened to, and I feel I
had an opportunity to express my views. The city council made its
decision to repeal the mandatory minimum sentences, and I think
that, given the fact that the city council has the responsibility of
determining what the laws are in the District of Columbia, I ulti-
mately come down and say that, as a D.C. resident, I support what
the council did. I disagreed, but, as I said, I thought we were treat-
ed fairly and we were listened to. We had our opportunity to make
our case.

Mr. Heineman. Chief, you've mentioned before about attrition
within the department and that in the last year you have left — ^you
have had 250 officers leave. Was that mostly due to retirement or
are there other reasons why seasoned officers leave the Metropoli-
tan Police Department?

Chief Thomas. Most of them left through optional retirement,
but there were some who left for employment with other law en-
forcement agencies.

Mr. Heineman. OK The state of the MPD as it relates to tech-
nology, computerization, which would move police officers through
your system to court quicker, through the court system quicker, at
what stage is that now? Is that in the process of implementation
or is it just on hold?

Chief Thomas. It's on hold at this point in time. During fiscal
year 1994, we probably invested about $8 million in technology,
and we're probably, I would say, about 60 percent complete. But,
with the reduction in the police department budget, which is about
$20 million, all technology improvements would be placed on hold,
but by doing so we've now started to revert to a manual system for
processing a lot of the papers, prisoners, and it's costing us more
money because all of those processes are labor-intensive.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you. I see my time has expired.

Mr. Scott?

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I was interested in the discussion about the disparity between
crack and powder, and I wasn't clear whether or not the increased
violence and what-not associated with crack was a function of crack
itself or the fact that it's sold in smaller quantities, and, therefore,
is more closely associated with poverty, and that if you have some-
thing that poor people buy rather than rich people, and with all the
attendant problems with crack with poverty, wouldn't we be in-
creasing punishment for poor people and not for crack? And, also,
if you'd answer the question — there's a significant proven racial
disparity that goes on above that. And in light of all of that, one,
do you know of any pharmacological reason why crack is involved
in violence, and, two, with all the association with poverty and
race, why we would want a disparity at all?


Judge Hamilton. Well, if I could, Congressman, it has been sug-
gested that there is a pharmacological difference between crack co-
caine and powder cocaine. I'm told by users of crack cocaine that
the threshold of addiction is very, very low with crack compared to
the threshold of addiction so far as powder is concerned. In other
words, I'm told in some cases just one use of crack cocaine causes
addiction on the part of the individual as opposed to several or
many uses of powder cocaine before it reaches the same level of ad-
diction. So there may be that pharmacological difference between
crack and powder cocaine.

In addition to that, for whatever reason — and I'm at a loss to ar-
ticulate any reason, but for whatever reason, there has just been,
as a result of crack cocaine, just a tremendous increase in violence
that has been associated with that particular drug as compared
even to heroin, PCP, marijuana, or powder cocaine. And what the
reason is nobody really knows, but the fact of the matter is that
there is that difference, that increase in the level of violence, that's
been associated with the distribution of that drug.

Mr. Scott. That has not been associated with cocaine? The pow-
der is much more expensive than crack and, therefore, it hasn't
been available in the low-income community for that addiction to
have taken place?

Judge Hamilton. Well, that may very well be the case, but we
have just seen a tremendous increase in violence associated with
that drug, and particularly among juveniles. It's just been phe-

Mr. Scott. Have you seen any difference that a higher punish-
ment has made on the use?

Judge Hamilton. Well

Mr. Scott. They're getting 5-year mandatory minimum, which
murderers don't even serve that kind of time. I mean, has it been
effective in reducing the use of cocaine?

Judge Hamilton. Well, it's certainly been effective in assisting
the disposition of cases. I mean, it gives a person something rather
definite to think about, if you're thinking about a mandatory mini-
mum with respect to a particular offense. So it's been particularly
helpful in that regard.


Mr. Scott. Well, my question isn't what happens after they get
into the judicial system. What happens out in the street? I mean,
are they more likely to use powder as opposed to crack because of
the 5-year mandatory minimum on crack rather than powder?

Judge Hamilton. No, they're not.

Mr. Scott. So it's had no difference on use?

Judge Hamilton. So far as I can see.

Mr. Scott. OK.

Mr. Holder. Well, I'm sensitive to the concerns you expressed,
though. Congressman, about the racial disparity that has been cre-
ated by the differences in sentences. One of the realities is that you
have a greater proportion of black people who are brought into the
net as a result of the disparity, and that has to be looked at. We
have to make sure that the laws that we have on the books are cer-
tainly race-neutral, but one of the realities also is that the people
who are the victims of crack- related crime are overwhelmingly of


minority status. And if you look at only what's happened in Wash-
ington, DC, or any inner city in this country, you see that.

Mr. Scott. Well, I think we all agree there's a problem. The
question is, what is the solution? And if the 5-year mandatory min-
imum isn't reducing the crack usage, and certainly isn't encourag-
ing people to use powder rather than crack because of the 5-year
mandatory minimum, then why are we locking people up for 5

Mr. Holder. I think what really drives a lot of people, the con-
cern they have with regard to the laws the way they now stand,
and the levels at which we bring people in for mandatory minimum
sentences at 5 years — you're talking about 5 grams — which is a rel-
atively small amount of crack. If, in fact, those were raised so that
you had mandatory minimum sentences applying to only those peo-
ple who were, if not major drug traffickers, at least at the inter-
mediate stage, I think there would not be as many concerns about
the crack and powder disparity.

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Heineman. Mr. Coble.

Mr. Coble. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, it's good to have you all with us. Judge, I regret that
I missed your testimony. I was confined over on the floor at the

Chief Thomas, what is the population of Washington, DC, ap-

Chief Thomas. About 578,000.

Mr. Coble. Five hundred and seventy

Chief Thomas. Eight thousand.

Mr. Coble. Seventy-eight? And how many police officers do you

Chief Thomas. We currently have on staff 3,820.

Mr. Coble. And you said earlier, I believe, there is a presence
of 14,000 total law enforcement?

Chief Thomas. Both Federal and MPD, yes.

Mr. Coble. And, as you pointed out in your testimony, that num-
ber alone should indicate this ought to be the safe haven, if there
ever was such a thing as a safe haven, and I guess the problem
from your testimony, as I recall, is the lack of coordination or the
right hand knowing what the left was doing. Would that be a fair

Chief Thomas. Yes, but the explanation for that, that there are
some Federal guidelines that prohibit some of the agencies from ac-
tively participating in local law enforcement issues.

Mr. Coble. And that ought to be resolved. Perhaps we can play
a role in that, but with that many people in law enforcement
present, openly and notoriously available, one would conclude that
that ought to flow more harmoniously; don't you agree?

Chief Thomas. Oh, absolutely.

Mr. Coble. And I'd like to talk to you in more detail about that.
Now the largest city in my district is 191,500 — by our standards,
a big city; by standards of big cities across the country, out in the
country. But we have 420 police officers. I have not compared that
with your number, but that would indicate that maybe you may be


a little top heavy; I don't know that because I haven't computed
that as yet.

But you indicated, Chief, the number who have left the force.
How many of those left through retirement?

Chief Thomas. The lion's share of them left through retirement.

Mr. Coble. I beg your pardon?

Chief Thomas. The lion's share, the majority of them left

Mr. Coble. OK.

Chief Thomas [continuing]. Through retirement.

Mr. Coble. So you're not losing a lot of people, then, because
they're fed up; it's too dangerous. I'm sure some of that occurs, but
most of it was through the retirement process?

Chief Thomas. Through retirement, but one can only guess that
some of them left through retirement because of pay cuts and other
kinds of things. So there are probably some other motives for them
leaving. Fortunately for them, they have sufficient years of service
to retire.

Mr. Coble. Now, as I have said, I have not done this mathemati-
cally, but using my figures from my district and your figures, here
it would appear that you all have more policemen per person than
we do down home. That may be because the crime rate is higher
up here. Do you want to comment on that?

Chief Thomas. Oh, I certainly would. We have — we do have a
significant number of officers per capita. Our numbers per capita
are the highest in the Nation; there's no question about that. How-
ever, I think there are some logical reasons for that. This is a Fed-
eral city. When Congress does something or the President that the
citizens around the country don't like or support, they come here
in large numbers to demonstrate— 100,000, 250,000. The MPD pro-
vides all the support for that. If we were a city in the State of
Maryland or Virginia, we could call upon the State police for assist-
ance, the local sheriffs department to help with processing pris-
oners, but here we do all of that. We also provide security and es-
cort services for the President, the Vice President on a daily basis,
and all the visiting heads of States and the ambassadors from var-
ious foreign countries. So we have a number of obligations that
we're forced to do that are not truly related to local crimefighting,
but also supporting the Federal interest, and this has gone on for
the last 50, 60 years. So there's a reason for the large number of
officers on the force. The other part of that, some of those numbers
were mandated by Congress.

Mr. Coble. I'd like to get with you sometime. Chief, subse-
quently, as far as coordinating these many different entities.

Judge Hamilton, everywhere I go I hear, oh, the calendars are
clogged, and I'm sure that's true. State, local. Federal — everywhere
everyone has crowded dockets. Do you utilize night court sessions
in Washington?

Judge Hamilton. No, sir, we do not, Congressman. We have

Mr. Coble. Excuse me. Excuse me, Judge.

Judge Hamilton. Yes.

Mr. Coble. And the second part of that question: since you don't,
do you think that would help unclog the calendars?


Judge Hamilton. We do not, and we have looked into that. I
looked into that with Mr. Holder and Chief Thomas. We looked at
the numbers. We did the research, and we concluded that it was
not cost-efficient to operate during the evening hours for a variety
of reasons, but we have given that very serious consideration.

Mr. COHIJ?. Mr. Chairman, I see you have illuminated my red
light. So I will withdraw. [Laughter.l

Perhaps we can do this another time. Thank you, gentlemen.

Judge Hamilton. Yes, sir. Thank you.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Mr. Coble.

Ms. Norton.

Ms. Norton. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I do want to congratulate the team you see before you, Mr.
Chairman, because the reduction in crime that has occurred in the
District is not only more significant than in other jurisdictions, but
it has occurred because of the kind of cooperation that these offi-
cials have provided. Mr. Holder is the first U.S. attomev that Dis-
trict residents have had the opportunity to choose. We re particu-
larly proud of him. Chief Thomas took a situation that was out of
control and helped bring it down, and Judge Hamilton runs what
even the Washington Post says is one of the most efficient courts
in the United States. So we know they're doing all they can.

I want to associate myself with the remarks of Representative
Coble about Federal police and cooperation with Federal police. We
already have the largest police force even without the Federal po-
lice force per capita, but, as the chief said, if you put the Federal
police in there, one begins to wonder why the number of cops is the

I am interested in investigating this notion of cooperation. I
know that there is cooperation within the guidelines because we've
had hearings on that, and on all sides that has been discussed. I
did not know until now that Federal guidelines prevented closer co-
operation, which means obviously building in inefficiency. If our
Federal police, Capital police, and Park police cannot be deployed
strategically, what are they doing for the Federal presence, which
is what this is supposed to be all about in the first place? And I
would like to work with the committee on seeing what could be
done, perhaps administratively; perhaps legislation is not needed.

I do want to say that two sessions ago I did get the Capital po-
lice, and this was like pulling teeth — the House was far more coop-
erative than the Senate — out into the community. We had a situa-
tion up here where the Capital police walked around the mulberry
bush while the crime in the community was escalating off the
charts. And we did get a bill passed that allows the Capital police
out into the Capitol Hill community by a ratio of three times what
it was before. But, again, if the coordination — and there's all kinds
of tipping around that the Capital police do on that — I'm very in-
terested in exploring that and getting at those guidelines.

I would like to go to an experience which I think you are about
here in Washington as well. I know that in New York Mayor
Giuliani credits nis significant reduction in crime to a change in
the focus on just rounding up criminals to specific actions in deter-
ring crime, and I guess this is directed to Mr. Holder and Chief


The kinds of activities New York has undertaken is more visi-
ble — patrols — better track of these repeat offenders. Mr. Holder,
working with Chief Thomas, has started something here in Wash-
ington that is very, very impressive — again not reinventing the
wheel. But I think that it's Kansas City who apparently discovered
that if you looked for, shall I call them suspicious characters who
might be carrying guns, operating within constitutional guidelines,
you could deter or significantly reduce gun crimes. I understand
you have begun to do that here, and I'd like you to discuss that
program and whether it is having an effect, considering how re-
cently it is that you have begun it.

Mr. Holder. Yes, Congresswoman Norton is talking about Oper-
ation Cease Fire. It's a program that has recently started here in
Washington, DC. It's patterned after something that was done in
the third district here in Washington and also in Kansas City,
where constitutional and appropriate means are used to get at peo-
ple who are carrying guns. I believe it was Congressman Coble who
indicated we have some of the strictest gun control laws here in the
country. Operation Cease Fire is designed to try to use those laws
in an appropriate constitutional way to see if we can get guns off
the street.

The experience in Kansas City and also in the third district here
was that if you take guns off the street, you will see a pretty dra-
matic decrease in the amount of violent crime. In Kansas City dur-
ing the experiment they increased the number of guns seized by
about 65 percent and saw a drop in violent crime of about 49 per-
cent. In the third district I'm not exactly sure what the ratio was
with regard to the number of guns ceased, but, as a result of the
program there, there was about 50 percent drop in the number of
assaults with dangerous weapons. This is a program that will be
in effect for a year. I expect, based on what we've seen in these
other places, that it should be successful.

Ms. Norton. That's very encouraging. This might, indeed, I
think, demonstrate that strong gun control laws can have an effect
if you use them in an intelligent fashion.

Judge Hamilton, I'm sure that the panel was surprised to learn
that your court is first among the 50 States in filings per capita.
This is an extraordinary load, and, of course, that's criminal and
civil filings. I know that your predecessor sought an intermediate
appellate court on the theory that most State courts have an appel-
late court and that your efficiency was affected by the fact that we
have only two courts.

Could you indicate whether you think an intermediate appellate
court is needed and, if so, what effect it would have on efficiency
in the court system? I mean, by the way, in order to do this, the
Congress would have to pass the law because of the way the home
rule act is written.

Judge Hamilton. I am not familiar with that particular issue. I
do know that Chief Judge Rogers has said on many prior occasions
that the District of Columbia, in order to deal and cope with its ap-
pellate caseload, did need the intermediate court of appeals, as
most States have, so that the court of appeals, the high court of
appeals, could reserve its time for really important legal issues that


might arise rather than the more usual and common and ordinary
legal questions that arise in the garden variety of cases.

I do not know what Chief Judge Wagner's position is on that
matter, Congressman Norton, and I would hesitate to take a posi-
tion on that matter in

Ms. Norton. Well, I think it's something that should be followed
through. Judge Hamilton, if I may say so, one way or the other,
because we were under considerable pressure to do so under her
predecessor. It seems to me, that if there are only two courts, that's
an incentive to appeal, frankly, and I believe that that issue needs
to be carried out.

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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 5 of 18)