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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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If I could ask one more question, because I think it could be a
Federal matter, Mr. Chairman. I think Mr. Holder's testimony indi-
cates that we don't have a full-blown, state-of-the-art forensic capa-
bility here, and so the FBI comes in and helps us out every once
in a while, and then we get a backlog, and they come in again, and
it's catch-as-catch-can. We, of course, with the Federal presence
here — going back to the police notion — Federal police could be help-
ful, having right here these facilities. I wonder if you believe that,
from what you know about the Federal facilities, forensic facilities,
if it would make sense to have that work wholly done in the Fed-
eral facilities. Why should D.C. reinvent at a miniature level the
state-of-the-art forensic facilities of the FBI and other Federal

Mr. Holder. I think that ought to be seriously considered. It
would, obviously, entail an increase in the number of people that
the FBI or the DEA might have. Some funding, I guess, would have
to be done there, but they do have state-of-the-art facilities, and I
think we put too great a demand, too great of a burden on the Met-
ropolitan Police Department. And, typically, where you have a city
that's in a State, the State has a program, has a lab, that does
these kind of forensic things. We don't have that ability here. We
very frequently have to turn to the Federal Government to help us
in that regard. I think we should ask a very serious question of
ourselves as to whether or not we might want to turn over whole-
sale to the Federal Government, to the Federal investigative agen-
cies, some of these responsibilities.

Chief Thomas. If I might respond, I don't share that total view.
I think Mr. Holder's correct in terms of availing ourselves of the
services provided by the FBI, DEA, et cetera, but it has certainly
been our experience that the local requirements come second to the
Federal. So if we're relying solely on the Federal agencies to pro-
vide forensic services, our needs are subordinate to those. Now if
we had a process or procedure that guaranteed that our requests
would certainly receive the same priority as the Federal, I would
tend to want to support that, but our experience has not borne that
out. Hence, we have always tried to take care of as much as we
can at the local level. Then those very complicated cases that ex-
ceed our expertise, then tap into the Bureau, the FBI, or the DEA,
but a certain degree of autonomy at the local level is imperative.
And just based on our volume of cases, last year we had 1,756
ADW gun cases, 600 of which involved a victim being shot. That's
probably triple what a lot of other cities would send into the FBI.


So when you have a Federal interest that develops, those will get
priority; ours get second priority.

Ms. Norton. Of course you could have a special unit. You could
even have a special unit of District employees that worked in the
facility — just as the FBI sends people right down to the police de-
partment and sits them right here, even though they are Federal

The reason I raise this is, unless we're willing to be flexible and
think of ways to get the job done while retaining our autonomy,
we're going to be sitting here talking in the same way as before.
I agree with the Speaker that, unless we are willing to think radi-
cally and boldly, we're not going to move to get the additional re-
sources that I think the Speaker has in mind. You made a very
good point, but I think it's the kind of point that we could get over
and solve.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Ms. Holmes.

In the spirit of moving on, I'd like to skip two of my colleagues
and recognize Mr. Bryant at this time.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me, first, very quickly, publicly do what I have done privately
with our U.S. attorney here, and I want to commend him for the
outstanding job that he's doing

Mr. Holder. Thank you.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee [continuing]. As well as the others.

I have a number of questions, and if I might ask you if you could
fully answer the questions, but in as short form as you can.

First of all, Mr. Holder, let me ask you, in followup to Represent-
ative Norton's question, is the possibility of using military labs, fo-
rensic labs, a possibility on a private contract basis; has that been
looked into?

Mr. Holder. That's certainly something that we could explore,
and I would endorse what Ms. Norton says. I think we should look
at this financial crisis as an opportunity to ask some really fun-
damental questions. It's an opportunity for us to be very creative,
to not be tied to the past in ways that perhaps don't work for the
future, and I think that is certainly something that we ought to

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Thank you.

In terms of asset forfeiture, is it the administration's position to
aggressively — and I guess filter down to the U.S. attorney in this
district — to aggressively pursue asset forfeiture cases? I think that
that is a way to supplement a local budget and help buy that addi-
tional technology, pay that additional overtime, through the forfeit-
ure of assets, particularly of drug dealers.

Mr. Holder. We turn over a pretty substantial amount of money
and assets that we have seized as a result, in particular, in drug
cases. That's something that we're very vigorous in our enforce-
ment of, and I sign on a very regular basis the documents that are
necessary to transfer either money or other resources to the Metro-
politan Police Department. That's an extremely important tool that
we have, though.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Do you feel that there's even more po-
tential there in terms of getting additional money, that you're fully
being able to use this resource or the law is there?


Mr. Holder. Yes. We have really tried to emphasize that. I put
additional people in our asset forfeiture unit within our office be-
cause we have not been as aggressive there as I think we have
needed to be with regard to the seizure of crack houses, for in-
stance, that we can sell and not only gain money for the city, but
also get rid of a nuisance in a particular neighborhood. We've really
tried to emphasize that part of our asset forfeiture effort.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Chief, in terms of the progress, at
least the decline this year in the rate of crime, is there any specific
technique or procedure that your Department is using that you
could attribute this decline of crime to?

Chief Thomas. I think so. I think there are a number of strate-
gies that we used in 1994 that were very successful. A couple of
things: basically, we went out and tried to attack the assault with
firearms because that's the precursor to homicide. If you can reduce
the number of assaults with firearms, you certainly will reduce the
homicides. Then after that we then started to attack the problem
of homicides themselves. Initially, when I came into office, the
homicide detectives were carrying about 13 cases per detective. I
eventually reduced that number to about three per detective, and
then we deplored the homicide detectives geographically around
the city in specific areas. Mr. Holder then assigned some of his
prosecutors accordingly, and then we were able to have better co-

As it relates to the street crime, we had special units set up that
we worked on overtime to attack the hot spots in the city. We can
tell you today with a certain degree of certainty in terms of areas
where most of the shootings and homicides will occur, and there's
been a pattern that's established over the last 3 years. The key,
though, is having the techniques to go in there and disrupt that.

I also would point out that we had good cooperation from the citi-
zens. More and more information was coming forward. We had the
time and resources to actually investigate those cases. And what's
important is for those officers that work when the crimes occur,
which is usually between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m., is our peak time in
the evening for crime. Those officers need to be able to go to court
offduty so that the next day they can come back and work the
evening tour of duty, but the law requires us to pay the officers
overtime when they go to court and we need funds to pay that
overtime. By doing so, you get a two-pronged approach. You have
the officers working when they're needed the most, but actually
going to prosecute those cases on their time and being compensated
for it. So there are some other things that we did as well that cer-
tainly have worked.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. Judge, I read where the District has
instituted a curfew for juveniles. Is it too early to gauge the success
of that curfew?

Judge Hamilton. Yes, sir, it is. Congressman. We just haven't
seen any results of that in the court at all to speak of So we just
don't know what effect it will have at this time.

Chief Thomas. If I might add, the mayor has not signed the leg-
islation. So it's not law as we speak.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. OK. I'm interested, very much inter-
ested in that. I'm sure people across the country are interested in


how these things work, particularly in light of our problem with ju-
venile crime throughout the country.

Chief Thomas. The mayor has indicated he's going to sign it. I
personally think it's a very effective tool. It's worked exceptionally
well in Dallas, Texas, and this law is patterned after one in Dallas.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. I thank all three of you.

Judge Hamilton. Thank you.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Mr. Bryant.

Mr. Chabot.

Mr. Chabot. Thank you. Just a few questions.

One thing I wanted to mention, that I have to say I've been very
impressed with all the police officers that I've come into contact
since I've been a Member here. They've been extremely courteous.
I've seen them all over the place, and from what I've seen, they've
been doing a very good job.

Chief Thomas. Thank you.

Mr. Chabot. The one thing I wanted to mention about a curfew,
did D.C. just recently pass a curfew? Is that

Judge Hamilton. The council passed it, but it has not been
signed by the Mayor. It has not been enacted into law and it has
not been put into operation on the street.

Chief Thomas. That's correct.

Mr. Chabot. OK For what it's worth, I'm from Cincinnati. I was
on the Cincinnati City Council for 5 years and then I was a Hamil-
ton County commissioner for 5 years. Cincinnati is within Hamil-
ton County. And in Cincinnati, we just implemented a curfew
about 2 years ago. Prior to implementing that curfew, there was a
lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the police chief originally
was against it because he was concerned that their officers would
kind of have to babysit the kids; once they'd pick them up, they'd
take them in and it would just be a big mess, and they were afraid
the kids wouldn't follow it.

It turned out it's been a great thing, and it's really, from a lot
of the folks — the police are extremely pleased with it. The business
folks are, the parents, the ministers of the churches, just about ev-
erybody. It's gone extremely well. So, for what it's worth, we had
a very good experience in Cincinnati with the curfew.

The first question I actually wanted to ask, obviously, we've had
many murders in the District over the years and many of them
drug-related. Do you have some idea — any one of you gentlemen
who wants to answer this — what percentage of the people that are
actually the victims in these murders are — to some degree have as-
sumed the risk, I would say, by in some way being involved in the
drug trade, either selling or purchasing, or whatever, drugs? So
people that, to some extent, shouldn't iDe where they're at and
shouldn't be doing what they're doing versus innocent victims, the
little kid that has the bullet come through the window and gets
killed or just citizens that are minding their own business or tour-
ists, or whoever they might be — what percentage of the people are,
to some extent, responsible for their demise?

Judge Hamilton. Well, based on what I've been able to see in
the court, I would say that it's no more than about 50 percent of
the victims who have been involved in some way themselves in
some type of criminal activity. There are a lot of innocent bystand-

26-242 - 96 - 3


ers. There are an increasing alarming number of would-be wit
nesses who are not just bystanders, but bystanders who have som<
knowledge and information about the case, and in some cases yoi
can see just witness after witness being systematically executed ir
this violent milieu that follows in these homicides. So I would sa]
myself not more than about 50 percent of the people are actualh
involved themselves in some type of trafficking or other illegal con

Mr. Chabot. ok. And a followup question, Judge, would you sa>
that it would be accurate that it makes law enforcement's job a lo
more difficult in prosecuting these cases because so many of th(
people that could be witnesses are basically terrified of the gangi
getting back at them?

Judge Hamilton. The cases are becoming increasingly complex
and difficult in terms of arrest, prosecution, and trial because o
the high level of violence that you experience before you get t(
court and then after you get to court. It's just a more complicatet

Mr. Holder. If I could just add, the problem is so severe tha
our office proposed, and the city council passed, a bill that makei
witness intimidation in Washington, DC, now an offense that car
now be punishable by up to life in prison. It has become that seri
ous. Federal judges here actually issued a statement that indicatec
that, for those people who are brought before them and convicte(
of obstruction of justice — that is, witness intimidation — they woul(
impose maximum sentences.

Mr. Chabot. Well, and I thought that was the case, that th(
laws had been toughened, but a followup question on that: it's m]
understanding that there is no longer a death penalty in D.C
Wouldn't it make sense, if a person actually executes or kills a wit
ness for that purpose, that that should be a capital offense in D.C.
and perhaps that might either make the folks feel safer or certainh
punish those who, I would argue, have done something dastardly'

Mr. Holder. Well, there is — there was a vote that the resident:
of the District took — I'm not sure — 4, 5 years, or so ago where i
death penalty issue was considered, and the residents of the Dis
trict pretty resoundingly voted it down. We have the ability, quit(
frankly, to use Federal laws, where we think appropriate, to seel
the death penalty, and, in fact, we have a death penalty case, th(
first in the District in, I guess, about 30 years or so, that will b(
tried in September for a person who killed a police officer. Undei
the laws that were passed as part of the crime bill last year, w(
have an increased ability to seek the death penalty where that ii
appropriate. The concern that we have as prosecutors is seeking i
death penalty in a district where the residents of the city have in
dicated their distaste for the penalty. We have to only seek r
where we think we can actually get it imposed, and we have to be
as I say, we have to be very careful in picking the cases in whici
we will seek the death penalty.

Mr. Chabot. OK.

Chief Thomas. I would just point out, though, in terms of witness
intimidation, it certainly is a problem, but the folks who witness
crimes or are victims of crime live in the same neighborhoods
where the crimes occur. So they're relatives of the assailant; they're


friends of the assailant all there. So if you could picture yourself
in your neighborhood, if you saw a crime and you reported it, that
all these persons are still around you, what we have to do is find
ways in which to insulate those witnesses, and sometimes that in-
volves moving an entire family out of a given area to another sec-
tion of the city or maybe even outside of the city, because I think
if you leave the witness there in the community, where they go
back and see the friends and relatives of the assailant, it's very dif-
ficult for the folk to want to come out and be viable witnesses for

Mr. Chabot. Thank you. I see my time — I have just one final
comment. It would seem to me that it should be a capital offense
for anyone who kills a potential witness at the minimum. I'm a
proponent of the death penaltv. So I think it should be in many
other cases as well, but certainly in that one.

Thank you very much.

Chief Thomas. Thank you, sir.

Judge Hamilton. Thank you.

Mr. Heineman. Thank you, Mr. Chabot.

Mr. Davis.

Mr. Davis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me, first of all, thank all of you for the job that you're doing.
Mr. Holder, I think you're a breath of fresh air in the city. I'm glad
to see you in that position.

Mr. Holder. Thank you.

Mr. Davis. Chief, sorry to see you retiring, but

Chief Thomas. Thank you.

Mr. Davis [continuing]. It's a well-earned retirement, and, Judge,
you've got a tough job; keep up the good work.

Judge Hamilton. Thank you.

Mr. Davis. Let me ask a question. There is still some discussion
here on Capitol Hill about block granting money to localities for
crime. And to pick up on what Chairman McCollum had talked
about earlier, if we could take money that would be earmarked for
the District under that bill and put that on a fast track to get it
into the city earlier, perhaps as part of the appropriations bill this
year or perhaps a separate vehicle, could we have a spending plan?
It would be a spending plan from the city to see how that money
would be implemented relatively quickly. Could that be done? And
I'm not sure how many — it's a few million dollars, maybe $2, $3,
$4 million, but you could use that money in ways that, drawing
from the general city revenues right now, things are tight, but
maybe some new initiatives, technology-related. Would that be
helpful to the city?

Chief Thomas. Oh, absolutely. In fact, we do, in fact, have a
spending plan for technology; we just don't have the funds. But
we've allocated and we know exactly where we want to spend the
money, what we want to do, and how that will be merged into the
much larger picture.

Mr. Davis. Let me ask you this: Would you prefer to put that
money into technology as opposed to new officers at this point,

Chief Thomas. Yes, I would. I think that's a better use of our dol-
lars to improve the infrastructure of the department, buy the


equipment, have money there for overtime, et cetera. I think by
adding officers we don't really get at the problem because after we
add the officers, we still have all these antiquated processes within
the Department where we have manual report-taking, et cetera.

Mr. Davis. Any other comment on that particular

Judge Hamilton. We certainly could, and the two things that
we're trying to get up and running are urban bootcamp and our do-
mestic violence program, and those two things are immediately
available, and they've already been designed. The plans have been
drawn. All we need is financial support to get them going.

Mr. Davis. Well, if we could do this, if we could get a plan from
you with some priorities, we will try to get you a number this after-
noon. Could we do that? Could staff get that and coordinate it with
Ms. Norton's office and Chairman McCollum's office and our office?
We'll see if there's anything we might be able to do along those
lines to expedite it.

I also want to pick up on what Ms. Norton talked about, and you
did in your testimony, Mr. Holder, and that is facilitating greater
cooperation between the city government and the Federal Govern-
ment in some areas, and we are going to be looking at that. I know
Mr. Heineman is as a part of his committee and the Speaker is and
our committee is, too, and see if we can coordinate and help the
city in that regard as well.

I've got a vote upstairs. I'm going to ask one other question.

Mr. Holder, not to put you on the spot, but you testified before
the city council in opposition to the repeal of the mandatory mini-
mum drug laws, and I know you respect home rule. I'm not trying
to put you — asking anybody to overturn it, but, on balance, as a
public policy issue only, if you were before the council again, do you
still believe that the public interest is better served by reinstituting
that law?

Mr. Holder. Yes, I do think so, for the reasons that I said. The
certainty of punishment helps with regard to our fight against
drugs. It also helps with regard to the administration of the drug

What I did testify to, though, was that I thought the level at
which the penalties were set, which was 4 years for the first of-
fense, 7 and 10 for second and third offenses respectively, was too
great and that we needed to have them lowered to 2, 4, 6, but I
do think that mandatory minimum sentences are effective and nec-

Mr. Davis. Finally, I guess my last question because I've got to
go up to vote, is let me ask Chief Thomas or any of you: have we
looked in the community policing program at actually moving offi-
cers into housing projects? You may give them a bonus or some-
thing to do that, where you can get into community policing by
having a 24-hour presence?

Chief Thomas. Yes. In fact, we have a resident officer program
in public housing. We have 12 officers there and a waiting list of
about 22. The problem has been with, as I understand it, the guide-
lines from HUD; it's very difficult for the city to take these units
offline and make them available free of charge or at a reduced rate
to police officers. And so

Mr. Davis. Does the program work?


Chief Thomas. Oh, yes, it's a great program. We need more of

Mr. Davis. So we basically have a lot of bureaucratic redtape at
this point that's

Chief Thomas. From the Federal side, yes.

Mr. Davis. From the Federal side? That's what I needed to know,
and we'll be back in touch with you on that.

I thank all of you gentlemen. I've got go vote in the Science Com-
mittee. Thank you.

Chief Thomas. Thank you.

Judge Hamilton. Thank you, Mr. Davis.

Mr. Holder. Thank you.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee [presiding]. Thank you.

I think we've lost most of our committee here, but I wanted to
see if anyone had a second round. Mr. Scott, do you have any ques-

Mr. Scott. Under the burning question rule, I don't have a burn-
ing question. I have other questions, but we'll go on. I think I can
ask them of the next panel.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. OK

Ms. Norton?

Ms. Norton. No, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. I have some burning questions, but
I'm afraid it would open up a whole new subject matter that would
probably get everybody real excited in regards to gun control, and
I'll reserve those for some other time, but it was particularly
brought to mind by the fact that we do have a real problem, appar-
ently, here with witness intimidation and we've got some folks out
there that are disarmed, and I'm not advocating wild west, but cer-
tainly possession of a gun in a home sometimes can act as a deter-
rent when we all know that police officers can't be everywhere at
one time, but I'll reserve that series of questions and close with
that comment.

And on behalf of this subcommittee, thank each of you for the
outstanding job that you've done today and also the job that you're
doing every day. Thank you.

Chief Thomas. Thank you.

Judge Hamilton. Thank you, Mr. Bryant.

Mr. Holder. Thank you.

Mr. Bryant of Tennessee. I would like to invite the second panel
to the table, please. Could we get the second panel to the table,

Our first witness in the second panel is Isaac Fulwood, Jr., the
former chief of police of the Metropolitan Police Department. Chief
Fulwood was appointed to the Metropolitan Police Department in
1964 and has held several positions, including community services
coordinator, investigator with the Internal Affairs Division, chief
budget officer for the department, and commander of two police dis-
tricts. He was the 25th chief of police and received over 200 awards
from various community, government, and professional organiza-
tions before retiring in 1992.

Chief Fulwood is now the cochairman of the D.C. Coalition
Against Drugs and Violence, an organization which he cofounded in
1993. The coalition is made up of citizens and organizations dedi-


cated to reducing substance abuse and related violence in the Dis-
trict of Columbia. Its mission is to serve as a catalyst for greater

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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 6 of 18)