District of Columbia: Observations on Supplemental Budget Request for Public Safety Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-05.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

GAO   United States
      Geheral Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      General Government   Division


      May 5, 1997

      The Honorable Charles Taylor, Chairman
      Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      Subject:    District of Columbia: Observations on Sunnlemental Budget Reauest
                  for Public Safetv Programs

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      The D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (the
      Authority) has prepared a fiscal year 1997 supplemental appropriation request
      of $15.2.million for public safely programs. The supplemental budget request
      for public- safely programs was based on the estimated costs of implementing
      two major recommendations in a recent Booz-Allen & Hamilton study of the
      Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Because it was necessary to cancel the
      April 16, 1997 hearing at which we were to testify on our observations on this
      request, your staff asked us to provide in a letter the information we prepared
      for the hearing. This letter is our response to that request.

      Although we have not done any specific audit work on the District’s public
      safety programs, our comments on the Authority’s supplemental appropriations
      request are based on our analysis of available documentation supporting the
      request, our review of the Booz-Allen study, and our knowledge of comparable
      processes and facilities at the federal level. In addition to the justification
      documents submitted to your subcommittee by the Authority, we obtained other
      information on assumptions underlying the request from the Authority and the
      D.C. Superior Court.

                                      GAO/GGD-97-89R   D.C. Supplemental Budget Request


The Authority’s supplemental budget request consists of two major parts. First, on the
basis of Booz-Allen’s finding that District police officers are paid less, on average, than
officers in other police departments in the region, the Control Board on the behalf of
MPD has requested $8.8 million to fund an immediate 10 percent pay raise for District
police officers for the last 6 months of fiscal year 1997. MPD estimates the fiscal year
1998 cost of implementing the pay raise at $18.6 million.

Second, on the basis of the findings and recommendations of the Booz-Allen study, MPD
stated that it has recently implemented changes in its operations that included placing an
additional 400 police officers on the street and taking a more proactive, community-
policing approach to law enforcement. According to the District, arrests have increased
substantially since these changes were implemented in early March 1997. MPD and the
Authority expect this higher level of arrests to continue through the remainder of t3scal
year 1997, leading to additional workload and costs for the Pretrial Services Agency, the
D.C. Superior Court (which includes probation services), the Office of Corporation
Counsel, and the Department of Corrections. The Authority has requested a total of
about $6.4 million to fund this additional workload through the end of fiscal year 1997.
Additional details about the supplemental budget request are provided in Enclosure I.


Booz-Allen concluded that there is a crisis within MPD related to the compensation
system and that immediate action needs to be taken. Booz-Allen noted that although a
pay cut was recently restored, pay negotiations with the police officers’ union are at an
impasse, with no new contract negotiated and approved since 1995. Booz-AlIen observed
that new initiatives, such as those MPD recently implemented, require higher performance
levels and quality of policing than MPD has demonstrated in the past. Booz-Allen also
noted that pay is typically used as a strategic lever to compete for critical resources and
provide incentives for employees to achieve desired performance levels. However, it
concluded that the District does not use pay for such purposes, stating that the District’s
average officer pay scale is 14 percent below the average of other departments in the

The Authority has requested $8.8 million to fund an immediate 10 percent pay raise for
the final 6 months of fiscal year 1997. If the raise is not effective as of April 1, 1997, but
made effective at a later date, the actual cost of funding a lo-percent raise for the
remainder of the fiscal year is likely to be less than $8.8 million.

Although Booz-Allen supported higher pay for MPD officers, it also stated that a more
detailed benchmarking study was required to (1) determine MPD officers’ “true”

 2                                     GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request

compensation levels, including all benefits, (2) identify required basic and advanced skills;
(3) identify the capabilities of current personnel; and (4) assess the pay levels necessary
to attract and retain the best and brightest.

As the Booz-Allen study suggested, to be effective, any pay raise should be part of a
broader plan to enhance MPD. Booz-Allen concluded that MPD operates at a very basic
level in terms of performance management. On the basis of our prior work on personnel
performance management issues, we agree with Booz-Allen that having effective
performance standards for officers and other MPD personnel is an important step to help
ensure that District citizens, Congress, and other stakeholders benefit from any pay
increase. The Authority’s justification for the pay raise supplemental request indicates
that the raise would be tied to performance standards and changes in work rules. Booz-
Allen also noted that MPD needs to address the issue of officer overtime, which it said
appears to be high in comparison to all but one surrounding jurisdiction.

Booz-Allen suggested that funds for the pay raise could come from one or more of the
following sources: District of Columbia taxes, congressional appropriations, savings
from improved operational performance, and lower administrative costs. The Authority
has proposed that Congress fund the immediate lo-percent raise through a supplemental
appropriation.   In the longer term, if MPD is able to achieve efficiencies in its operations,
the savings could be used to fund at least part of this or any future pay raises for police
officers. For example, Booz-Allen found that the percentage of civilian employees in MPD
was one of the lowest of 10 major metropolitan police departments.’ Booz-Allen
preliminarily identified 256 positions held by police officers that it considered to be
potentially appropriate for civilian employees.’ Shifting these positions to civilians could
potentially save money, because civilians are generally paid less than officers and have
less generous pension benefits. In addition, Booz-Allen noted that civilians can be
downsized, if necessary, more quickly than officers.

‘The high was 38.4 percent civilian employees in San Diego, and the low was 15.4 percent
in Chicago. MPD was fourth lowest at 21.2 percent.

2Booz-AB4en’sfindings were based on personnel assignments prior to the recent initiative
which pHaced an additional 400 officers on the streets. We have no information
concerning the effect, if any, of MPD’s initiative on Booz-Allen’s Endings on civilian

3                                     GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental        Budget Request


The Authority requested a supplemental of $55,000 for pretrial services, $1,388,000 for
Superior Court, and $84,000 for the Office of Corporation Counsel to process the
additional cases expected to result from MPD’s initiatives through the remainder of fiscal
year 1997.3 MPD made 8,597 arrests in March 1997, about 62 percent more than the
5,313 arrests made in March 1996, or an average of more than 100 additional arrests each
day. If MPD’s enhanced enforcement efforts continue to result in additional arrests, it
seems logical to assume that the additional arrests would also result in increased
workload and costs for the entire District criminal justice system, including pretrial
services, adjudication, probation, and incarceration. The actual additional workload and
the costs of processing that workload would depend upon a number of variables. These
include the proportion of arrests that ultimately result in prosecutions, the mix of
misdemeanor and felony cases, the proportion of felony cases the U.S. Attorney chooses
to prosecute in federal district c~urt,~ the proportion of defendants who receive court-
appointed attorneys, the proportion of defendants who are detained in jail prior to trial,
the proportion of cases that go to trial, the conviction rate for those prosecuted, and the
sentences imposed upon defendants found guilty.

To better understand the workload assumptions underlying the dollars requested for
Superior Court, you asked that we pursue this issue directly with the Court. The
Executive Office of the District of Columbia Courts provided us with additional
information on workload assumptions, as shown in Enclosure It. Basically, this
information shows that the Superior Court’s estimated increased workload was based on
the assumption that the increase in case filings and other workload that occurred in
March 1997 would continue through the remainder of fiscal year 1997, and that the
Court’s estimates were based on funding for 7 months of additional workload (March
through September 1997).

3The District has included a separate supplemental request of $302,000 for the Youth
Services Administration within the Department of Human Services. The Youth Services
Administration provides supervision of youths up to 21 years of age who are detained
pending trial or who have been committed as delinquents to the District’s care. The
request is based on an anticipated increase of 32 detained or con-m-&ted youths as a result
of the MPD initiatives. We have no basis for commenting on this request.

4Within the District, a3l felony cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney, either in D.C.
Superior Court or the U.S. District Court. Where the charged offense is a violation of
federal as well as D.C. statutes, the U.S. Attorney may choose to prosecute the case in
federal court.

4                                     GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request

The Executive Officer of the D.C. Courts told us that he had prepared an initial estimate
that showed the Court would likely need to make 400 additional attorney appointments
for felony cases and 650 additional appointments for misdemeanor cases. These
estimates were included in the Board’s supplemental request. When we inquired about
the basis for these estimates, the Executive Officer undertook some additional data
gathering and analysis. This analysis resulted in an estimate that the number of
additional court-appointed attorneys for the 7-month period would be 575 (for felonies)
and 2,548 (for misdemeanors).5 These larger estimates appear to be based on a more
detailed analysis of criminal filings for which court-appointed attorneys could be required
than that originally provided in support of the supplemental request. The Executive
Officer did not provide a revised cost estimate associated with this revised estimate of
case filings. While we have no basis for supporting or questioning the Court’s estimate of
case filings, we note that the estimated cost of $800 per case for court-appointed
attorneys in felony cases is less than the average cost per case for court-appointed
attorneys in the federal system.6

The Authority’s request estimates that MRD initiatives will result in an additional 50 jury
trials before the end of the fiscal year, with associated costs of about $140,000, including
juror and witness fees. The request includes $8,000 for interpreters, based on an
 assumption that about 8 percent of all cases filed require an interpreter for non-English
 speaking defendants7 The Authority’s request also assumed a rise in the overall
 conviction rate from about 65 to 75 percent or more, but the anticipated impact of this
rise was not specified.

The supplemental assumes that a large number of cases will be less serious offenses for
which convicted offenders would be sentenced to probation. The request is based on
1,000 additional persons placed on probation during the remainder of fiscal year 1997.
The request assumes 100 probationers for each District probation officer. This is a higher

5Because of the uncertainly in estimating the number of additional cases that would
actually be prosecuted, the documentation indicated that the actual number of new cases
requiring court-appointed attorneys could range widely.

‘Court-appointed attorneys in the District are paid a flat rate of $50 per hour. The
standard rate for federal court-appointed attorneys is $45 for each out-of-court hour and
$65 for each in-court hour.

7Available documentation indicated that the request would fund 198 additional requests
for interpreters at $250 per day, and that interpreters would be used for multiple cases
each day. Using the assumption that interpreters are required for 8 percent of all cases
filed in D.C. Superior Court, the request is based on an estimate of about 2,475 additional
criminal case filings in D.C. Superior Court during the remainder of fiscal year 1997.

5                                     GAOIGGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request

estimated workload per officer than the basic ratio of 57 probationers per officer used for
estimating federal staffing needs.

We have no basis for assessing the need for, or reasonableness of, the $55,000 requested
for pretrial services’ or the Corporation Counsel’s need for an additional $84,000. We
note only that to the extent MPD’s initiatives result in increased arrests for offenses
under the Counsel’s jurisdiction, such as misdemeanor and juvenile delinquency offenses,
it seems reasonable to expect that the Counsel’s workload would increase.’


The Authority has requested an additional $4.9 million to house additional inmates
resulting from the new policing initiatives instituted in March 1997. These funds are to
permit the corrections system to continue to operate a medium security facility at the
District’s correctional complex in Lorton, VA, originally scheduled for closure this fiscal
year. The Department of Corrections plans to send inmates currently housed in this
facility to a contract facility beginning May 15, 1997. Based on data provided by the
Department of Corrections, the request estimates that the cost of keeping the medium
security facility at Lorton open is $35,890 per day, or $4,952,852 for the 138 days between
May 15 and September 30, 1997.

We have no basis on which to question or support the need for, or the reasonableness of,
this request for the Department of Corrections. Recent press reports indicate that the
number of new inmates at the D.C. jail increased from 1,263 in March 1996 to 1,518 in
March 1997. The jail has a daily capacity of 1,674 inmates. In its request, the Control
Board has indicated that in order to make room for the entry of an estimated 680 new
inmates resulting from MPD’s initiatives, some of the inmates currently in the D.C. jail,
which operates under a court-ordered population ceiling, would be moved to other
facilities, including those at Lorton.lo

this   includes $30,000 for overtime and $25,000 for a voice recognition system.

‘The Office of Corporation Counsel prosecutes persons charged with misdemeanors,
juvenile delinquency, and driving while intoxicated. Among the misdemeanors are
 “qualify-of-life” offenses, such as disorderly conduct, prostitution, and public drunkenness,
which have been targeted by MPD’s community-policing initiative.

 ‘*Generally, offenders detained prior to trial are housed at the D.C. jail. When these
 detainees are sentenced, they may be transferred to the Correctional Treatment Facility
 (CTF) adjacent to the jail for diagnostic testing. CTF also operates programs for
 substance abusers and women offenders.

 6                                     GAOIGGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request


The Director of Governmental Affairs at the D.C. Financial Responsibility and
Management Assistance Authority provided official oral comments on a draft of this
correspondence on May 1, 1997. The Director said suggested technical changes which
we have incorporated into the report, as appropriate.   The Director also provided a copy
of the Authority’s final supplemental request which included a net addition of $29,500 for
D.C. Superior Court. We incorporated those changes into the text and Enclosure I.

We are sending a copy of this letter to the Ranking Minority Member of your
Subcommittee. We plan no further distribution of this letter for 30 days, unless   its
contents are made public. At that time, we will send copies to the Chairman of     the D.C.
Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, and others upon       request.
Should you wish to discuss this information further, please contact me on (202)     512-3610.
The major contributor to this letter was William 0. Jenkins, Jr.

Sincerely yours,

Norman Rabkin
Administration of Justice Issues

7                                   GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental       Budget Request
ENCLOSURE I                                                              ENCLOSURE I


Additional Detail

  Function/Organization                 Amount   requested
  Pay raise, Metropolitan     Police             $8,800,000
  Superior   Court
    Overlime processing                              30,000
    50 Jury trials                                    78,000
    Witness fees                                     62,000
    Interpreters                                       8,000
   Court-appointed      attorneys                    710,000
   Social Services (probation)                       500,000
      Subtotal Superior Court                     $1,388,000
  Corporation       Counsel                           84,000
  Pretrial   Services
    Overtime                                          30,000
    Voice recognition system                          25,000
       Subtotal Pretrial Services                    $55,000
  Department       of Corrections                  4,900,000
  TOTAL                                          $15,227,000

Source: D.C. Financial Responsibility    and Management Assistance Authority

                                        GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request
ENCLOSURE II                                                                        ENCLOSURE


    Type of Workload                                       March        March       Additional
                                                           1996         1997        Estimated
                                                           Workload     Workload    Workload
                                                                                    March -
    Felony Filings
     New Filings                                                 906”        987                 567
     Felony bench warrants executed                             210b         231             140”
     Fugitive warrants executed                                  167b         187                140
       Subtotal                                                 1,283       1,405                847
    Less estimated 30 percent of new filings that would         n.a.e        n-a.            -170
     not result in prosecutionsd
    Net estimated additional felony filings                      n-a.        n.a.                677
    Misdemeanor      Filings
    New filings                                                1,288”       1,947           4,613
    Less estimated 35 percent of new filings that would          n.a.        n.a.          -1,615
     not result in prosecutions
      Net estimated additional filings                           n-a.        n.a.           2,998
    Cases Requiring     Court-Appointed   Attorneysf
     Felonies                                                    n-8.        n.a                 575
     Misdemeanors                                                n.a.        n.a.           2,548
    Jury Trials
    Assumed that 6.5% of felony arrests would result in          n.a.        n.8.                539
     jury trials, based on 1995 actual experience

aMonthly average for calendar year 1996, when 10,877 new felony cases and 15,461 new
misdemeanor cases were filed.

9                                             GAO/GGD-97-89R   D.C. Supplemental Budget Request
ENCLOSURE II                                                                       ENCLOSURE. IL

bBased on hand-count of March 1996 felony bench and fugitive warrants.

“Although the actual estimated number of additional figs    for the period would be 147, in the
documentation the estimate was rounded down to 140.

dCasesmay not be prosecuted for a number of reasons. The Booz-Allen study found that for the
4-month period, November 1996 through February 1997, the number of arrests that did not result
in the filing of formal charges against the offender ranged from 20 to 38 percent of the cases
presented for prosecution.

‘Not available from documentation provided.

fBased on the assumption that 85 percent of net filings will require a court-appointed attorney.

gSupplemental actually requests funds for 50 additional jury trials. The estimated total of 53 is
derived by multiplying 817 felony arrests by 6.5 percent. The total felony arrests used for this
calculation excludes the additional estimated 140 fugitive warrants.

Note: Explanatory notes based on information provided by the Executive Officer of D.C. Courts.


 10                                      GAO/GGD-97-89R D.C. Supplemental Budget Request
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