Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Death by Paperwork

Did you know that anytime an MPD officer makes an arrest, he/she must spend hours filling out paperwork and then appear in court first thing the next morning to present it to a magistrate? This process is a burden for officers, makes them think twice before making arrests, and forces them to spend less time cruising the streets or walking the beat.

One of my best friends is an MPD officer, and he has given me detailed horror stories of some of DC's finest. In some cases, officers who get off work at 3AM, must sleep in their cars because they need to appear in court at 7:30AM, just a few hours later. DC, which falls under the purview of the US Attorney, is one of the few places in this nation that does not have a judge available 24 hours per day to process arrests.

Because this process is so burdensome, many officers have decided that its easier to release suspects instead of making an arrest. So, not only are officers spending less time on the street, but when they are on the street, they aren't catching criminals. I don't blame our fine officers for this. As a military man myself, I understand how frustrating a bureaucracy can be. The only way to change this is to fix the system.

Unfortunately, the City Council has no ability to make the change because the process is controlled by the federal government. Yet again, another example of DC residents being treated as second-class citizens. Well, I brought this to the citizens tonight via Chair Samantha Nolan and the 2nd District Citizens Advisory Council. Ms. Nolan shares my passion for MPD officers and led a spirited discussion on the issue. The CAC is sending a letter to the US Attorney's office, which is a great first step.

Contact US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and tell him that you want attorney's available at all hours to receive arrest paperwork. He can be reached at Or here's another keen idea: why don't we give officers computers so they can submit the paperwork online? No matter what the solution, we need a change.

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