The former commander of a District of Columbia police division that provided a police escort to actor Charlie Sheen says he’s challenging an official reprimand from the department.
Hilton Burton, who commanded the special operations division until being demoted this month, told The Associated Press that he met Tuesday with an inspector from the disciplinary review branch and was given an official reprimand for the April police escort of Sheen from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington. Burton said he rejected the reprimand and is appealing it up the ranks because he doesn’t feel that he or his officers did anything wrong.
“I’m not accepting that or any other form of discipline because of the pattern and practice that had been going on long before I got here,” Burton said.
An official reprimand does not carry any pay cut or suspension, but can stay in an officer’s personnel file for three years.
Police department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the department doesn’t comment on personnel matters.
A newly released internal affairs report obtained by AP faults the two officers who provided the escort, the lieutenant who approved it and Burton, who says he didn’t know about the ride until after it happened. The report also reveals that the escort was referred to authorities in Virginia for prosecution of possible traffic violations — Sheen’s limousine traveled around 80 mph at one point — but that Fairfax County prosecutors quickly decided not to pursue the case.
Sheen’s limo was escorted by two police cars on April 19 to a performance at DAR Constitution Hall as part of his stage show, “Violent Torpedo of Truth: Defeat is Not an Option.” The actor’s representative arranged for the escort, which was reimbursed for roughly $445, earlier in the day after it appeared Sheen would be late for the performance. The ride attracted attention after Sheen tweeted excitedly about being escorted by speeding police cars with lights and sirens.
He posted a photograph of a speedometer that appeared to be registering about 80 mph, though the limo driver who was interviewed for the report says he drove at that speed for only a short distance and it was only to catch up with the lead police car after he was momentarily blinded by the flash of paparazzi cameras and had to come to a complete stop.
The report relies on statements from more than a half-dozen officers including Burton and Lt. Stuart Emerman, who approved the escort.
Some of the police officers who were interviewed offered conflicting statements about whether police escorts were standard practice for celebrities and non-dignitaries. Police records released after the Sheen escort show that Bill Gates, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift are among the celebrities who have been escorted by police recently, though Police Chief Cathy Lanier says escorts aren’t intended for celebrities without some sort of pressing security need.
Burton testified in June before a D.C. Council committee that such escorts were routine, conflicting with Lanier’s testimony that the Sheen escort broke policy in multiple ways.
Burton was demoted this month to the rank of captain and transferred out of the special operations division. Lanier says the demotion was not related to the escort or to his D.C. Council appearance.
The report says the two officers who gave the escort erred either by speeding or by inappropriately using the car’s emergency lights and air horn — something they said was necessary because cars with paparazzi were periodically trying to enter the motorcade. The report faults Emerman for failing to get proper approval for the escort, citing department policy that requires specialized permission when an escort is being offered to someone other than the president, vice president, mayor, visiting heads of state and other such dignitaries.
And it says Burton, as commander of the division, failed to ensure that Emerman was following correct policies.
Burton is appealing the sanction.
The internal affairs report was released one month after a separate report from the D.C. inspector general’s office concluded that the Sheen escort had not violated department policy, and that such escorts had been done without fanfare for years. Kristopher Baumann, the chairman of the police officers union, urged the inspector general to review the police department’s own investigation.
He said the union believed there were at least three prior draft reports of the investigation that had cleared at least two officers of any wrongdoing, but no mention of that finding is contained in the final draft of the report. A spokesman for the inspector general’s office did not immediately return a phone message.