Lawmakers downplay use of Guard in District



WASHINGTON (AP)—Attorney General Janet Reno suggested Sunday the Clinton administration is cool to the idea of deploying National Guard troops in the nation’s capital.

Reno said federal officials were reviewing Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly’s request Friday that President Clinton allow Guard members to serve in police duties in the city, but she stressed the importance of building relationships between local police forces and communities.

Meanwhile, city officials scrambled to correct what they said were misperceptions about the role the Guard would play in the district.

Contrary to reports that Kelly was seeking to mobilize up to 3,000 troops, City Administrator Robert Mallett said the district would need to deploy only 100 to 200 members of the Guard ‘‘to make a dent’‘ in its anti-crime efforts.

Maj. Michael Milford of the D.C. National Guard said 50 active troops currently assist with police operations in the city under a federal anti-drug program. Milford said their duties have included aerial surveillance and nightly missions in which high-intensity portable lights are used to illuminate crime-ridden areas.

‘‘Community policing is working throughout the nation, and I think by providing strong law enforcement support with trained police officers, that’s the ultimate issue,’‘ said Reno on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’‘

‘‘If the National Guard can perform a support facility or a backup facility that does not involve law enforcement, that might be an issue that should be addressed as well,’‘ the nation’s top law enforcement official said.

‘‘But it’s going to require proper planning to make sure that each function is performed by people who are trained and appropriate for that function.’‘

Both she and Vice President Al Gore, who appeared on ABC’s ‘‘This Week With David Brinkley,’‘ urged congressional passage of the administration’s anti-crime package which the Senate is to take up this week.

Clinton’s plan calls for 50,000 more police officers on the nation’s streets, imposing a waiting period on handgun purchases and finding alternative discipline programs for young offenders.

Gore said Kelly’s request ‘‘should be reviewed carefully.’‘

Reno also said she believed Congress would have to grant Kelly authority to call in the Guard.

Two senators signaled lawmakers are divided on the issue.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said ‘‘generally it’s a bad idea, but it may be necessary.’‘

But Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tex., who appeared with Biden on CBS’s ‘‘Face e Nation,’‘ flatly opposed the idea.

‘‘D.C. has not done a good job in having stiff minimum mandatory sentencing,’‘ said Gramm. ‘‘The problem is they put people in jail and don’t keep them there.’‘

That fact was buttressed by a story in Sunday’s editions of The Washington Post. The newspaper tracked 1,286 slayings in D.C. over three years, and found that only one in four cases led to a murder or manslaughter conviction.

In four of every 10 homicides, no one was ever arrested, according to the report.