Visiting Officers Cautioned on Conduct

Chief Lanier said bad conduct could disrupt a
Chief Lanier said bad conduct could disrupt a "very dignified event." (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier put out fliers yesterday warning officers in town for National Police Week that they must obey city laws covering disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and other "unacceptable behavior."

Lanier ordered the fliers distributed around downtown in hopes of curbing complaints about officers drinking in public, playing loud music and causing other trouble. Several D.C. residents contacted officials in recent days with complaints about rowdy and profane conduct.

Thousands of officers from departments across the country are in Washington for the National Police Week activities. The programs honor officers who died in the line of duty and included a vigil Sunday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Although the official events have a somber tone, trouble has taken place over the years late at night.

The fliers -- addressed to "Police Week 2007 Participants" -- spell out several city laws governing unlawful assembly, profane and indecent language, disorderly conduct, drinking in public and driving while intoxicated. "The unacceptable behavior of some participants in activities associated with National Police Week has not gone unnoticed," the fliers say.

The warnings are being posted in apartment buildings, hotels and bars as this year's events are winding to a close. So far, D.C. police said, no one has been arrested.

A resident near Fifth and H streets NW, a hub of many of the activities, e-mailed Lanier early yesterday alerting her to disturbances. The resident videotaped a "small number" of officers engaging in unprofessional activity, Lanier said. The chief declined to elaborate, saying the matter is under investigation.

D.C. police responded to complaints from residents at the scene, Lanier said. She added that she is looking into whether police handled the incident properly.

Lanier said she was concerned that the officers' conduct this week could disrupt what has become a "very dignified event."

"We want to remind them that their conduct needs to be professional and what the laws in D.C. are," Lanier said.

A little before 2 a.m. yesterday, F Street NW looked like a scene out of MTV's spring break specials, as hundreds of officers milled outside Kelly's Irish Times and the Dubliner, two bars blocks from the Capitol. Many of the law enforcement officials had police badges around their neck -- and open containers of beer in their hands as they partied on the street and sidewalk outside the bars.

Charles Allen, a spokesman for D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), said Wells received an e-mail from a resident who said he called 311 to complain about someone playing bagpipes until 2 a.m. several recent nights.

But the complaints this year do not rival those generated in other years. In the mid-1990s, for example, some New York City officers held loud, drunken parties at Washington area hotels -- mooning guests, groping women and damaging property. Other incidents have ended with prosecutions: A Boston police officer was convicted in 1996 of making threats during a disturbance at a Georgetown restaurant, and a New York officer pleaded guilty to a 2003 sexual assault of a police cadet in a hotel room.

Several visiting officers said they were offended that Lanier was posting signs ordering them to behave.

"Is this because the attention is on us, or is this a way of saying the chief doesn't want us here?" said retired New York officer Mike Dufan. "We're here year after year to honor the fallen dead. Do we have a few cocktails? Yes, we do. I could say the same about congressmen and senators, but there isn't a big stink about them."

Staff writers Allison Klein and Elissa Silverman contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company