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Letter to the Members of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia.

July 24, 1965


I am pleased to appoint you as a member of the commission which I am creating to deal with crime and law enforcement in the District of Columbia.

The assignment of the commission is as broad as the problem of crime in the District. In my message to the Congress on February 15 I stated a number of areas which I believe warrant particular attention, but the commission should not regard these suggestions as in any way limiting its scope. Indeed, it is my hope that the commission, through the prompt organization of task forces, will find it possible to consider and make recommendations on every issue which it believes relevant to the central problem. I do not expect the commission, however, to duplicate the work already done in the District in the field of juvenile delinquency prevention under the auspices of the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, although it doubtless will find useful the studies and data, as well as the results of the demonstration project now underway in the Cardozo area.

The task forces may include members of the commission, but in general should be selected from without as well as within the District, and from Federal and District Governments as well as from private life. Wide and varied membership in these groups will enable the commission to enlist particular skills and experience needed to reach sound conclusions. By way of suggestion, the following areas of study might be assigned to task forces:

(1) The best use of police services, including police selection, training, and improvement of police-community relationships.

(2) Causes of crime, and relationship to criminal activity of economic, educational, and social factors.

(3) Treatment of offenders, from arrest to conviction (e.g., uses and abuses of bail).

(4) Treatment of the convicted offender, particularly the first offender (e.g., treatment and ultimate disposition of those committed to mental institutions, supervision of convicted offenders after release, economic rehabilitation of offenders).

(5) Diagnosis and non-criminal treatment of socio-medical problem offenders (e.g., alcoholics, narcotic offenders, sex offenders, family quarrels, etc.).

(6) Examination of prosecutorial and judicial procedures, particularly juvenile court philosophy, organization, and procedures.

(7) Revision of D.C. criminal laws, other than those within the scope of other specific task force assignments.

It is my hope that the commission will work closely with the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, which I am establishing. The District and National Commissions should immediately establish liaison, so that there will be neither duplication of effort nor failure to take advantage of mutually useful ideas, research, or results.

The commission, and the task forces, will be supplied with staff assistance, and I am instructing all departments and agencies of the Federal government to extend assistance to the commission in every way possible.

This commission should plan to report to me within a year, with specific recommendations. Indeed, I would welcome interim recommendations in any area as soon as the commission is prepared to make them.

The assignment you and the other members of the commission have accepted is one of major importance. Our goal, as I stated in my February 15 message, is no less than "the planning and establishment in the District of a model system which will best achieve fair and effective law enforcement." Achievement of that goal will of course benefit not only our Nation's capital, but every other city now grappling with similar problems.



Note: This is the text of similar letters addressed to the Chairman and the members of the Commission. For the names of the Chairman and members see the President's remarks upon signing the District of Columbia appropriation bill (Item 366) in which he announced the establishment of the Commission. The letter to the Chairman was dated July 19; the remainder, July 22.

On May 14, 1965, the White House announced that the President had asked Congress for an additional $1,879,000 to enable the District of Columbia to increase its efforts against crime. The release stated that in a letter to the President of the Senate, transmitting the request in the form of an amendment to the 1966 budget, the President said:

"These funds will permit a significant effort to reverse the long-standing pattern of increasing crime in the District by increasing the effective strength of the Metropolitan Police during the next nine months to allow a substantial increase in police coverage at the times and places where it is most needed. With the additional police cars and two-way radios to be provided, this program should promptly improve the safety of the streets in the District. Moreover, since funds are also provided to permit careful evaluation of results, there will be a sound basis upon which to determine how much the size of the police force should be increased on a permanent basis. These appropriations will fund measures to fight crime that can be undertaken without delay. I hope that Congress can give early attention to this request for the needed funds.

"Additional measures, such as pistol registration, can also have an immediate impact. As other proposals are developed, particularly by the commission on District crime which I will appoint shortly, they will be promptly forwarded to the Congress. Prompt consideration of them by the Congress will demonstrate our mutual determination that crime can and will be brought under control."

The release further stated that the funds requested would provide for a demonstration--from July 1, 1965, to March 31, 1966--of the impact on criminal activity of a substantial concentration of police in areas of heavy crime and at critical hours of the day and night.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Members of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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