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Government and People
December 10, 1997
NORTON ASKS ACTING US ATTORNEY LEWIS FOR MAJOR POLICE CORRUPTION EFFORT
Washington, D.C.---Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) today released a letter to Acting U.S. Attorney Wilma Lewis asking that she consider initiating a high-level independent investigation of corruption in the Metropolitan Police Department. The Congresswoman said that she had spoken with Ms. Lewis and had requested that she meet personally with city leaders, even though the new U.S. Attorney is not yet full-time in the office.
In her letter, the Congresswoman noted confusion concerning proposals that raise legal questions about "who would have the authority, independence, expertise and credibility to conduct such a probe," particularly since the major funding required is not in the D.C. budget. She expressed concern that an independent commission would take years to uncover corruption, and said that "since questions of corruption may be closely linked to inefficiency in the Department, I do not see how the Department can be reformed unless matters involving corruption are pursued forthrightly and immediately." The Congresswoman also is concerned to head off any hint of congressional intervention that could occur if the District does not find an appropriate way to proceed quickly.
Congresswoman Norton asked Ms; Lewis for her views and suggested that "a special task force devoted to this problem or some other group working in tandem with the U.S. Attorney should be considered."
December 10, 1997
Dear Ms. Lewis:
I am writing to ask that you consider initiating a high level independent investigation of allegations of corruption in the Metropolitan Police Department. I believe that the matter should and can be handled within the District, not by the Congress.
Various proposals are beginning to circulate, but many are fraught with legal and other questions concerning who would have the authority, independence, expertise and credibility to conduct such a probe. Moreover, it is not clear where major funding not now included in the D.C. budget would come from to give the matter the attention it needs and deserves.
I am particularly concerned that independent commissions sometimes take years to uncover problems and reach conclusions. Our Police Department is undergoing structural reform now, and since questions of corruption may be closely linked to inefficiency in the Department, I do not see how the Department can be reformed unless matters involving corruption are pursued forthrightly and immediately.
I am disturbed by reports that some believe that the U.S. Attorney's office has not proceeded quickly and effectively to help root out police corruption. Perhaps the period during which there has been no permanent U.S. Attorney has contributed to this impression.
I recognize that you are not in the office full time yet but are working both at the U.S. Attorney's office and finishing your present work. I believe, however, that you may want to involve yourself personally in the search for an appropriate response to charges of corruption in the Police Department. None of us outside of the Department, of course, can know whether there are investigations in progress or how the U.S. Attorney's office is proceeding, but it appears that there is no comprehensive investigation underway by the U.S. Attorney's of fice. Of the of ficials available to take action without incurring a long delay, the U.S. Attorney's office may be the most appropriate if there is strong leadership. I would appreciate your views. Ideas such as a special task force devoted to this problem or some other group operating in tandem with the U.S. Attorney might be considered.
I urge you to meet personally with the Mayor, Members of the City Council and Members of the Financial Authority so that a clear and effective approach satisfactory to all concerned can be quickly developed.
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