Police Union Says Fenty Unwelcome

Aides said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty would attend today's police memorial service as the guest of Chief Cathy L. Lanier.
Aides said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty would attend today's police memorial service as the guest of Chief Cathy L. Lanier. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By David Nakamura and Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 9, 2008

Tension between D.C. police officers and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty over a high-profile shooting case escalated yesterday when the Fraternal Order of Police rescinded an offer to him to attend its annual memorial service.

But administration officials said the mayor intends to keep his commitment to speak at today's event as a guest of Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

The standoff could result in an awkward and uncomfortable scene at the ceremony, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 441 Fourth St. NW.

Marcello Muzzatti, president of Lodge 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 11,000 active and retired officers in the region, said that some officers might turn their backs to Fenty (D).

"It won't look good for him," Muzzatti said, adding that Fenty's name will not be in the printed program that the group plans to distribute at the memorial.

The D.C. police union, a member organization of the Fraternal Order of Police, has been angered by Fenty's handling of the September shooting death of 14-year-old DeOnté Rawlings. Fenty helped pay for the teen's funeral, and the administration, under pressure from the public and media, released the names of the two off-duty officers involved in the incident.

Last week, a months-long federal investigation determined that the officers, who thought Rawlings had stolen a minibike from one of them, had acted in self-defense. Neither officer was charged with wrongdoing. Authorities said they are convinced that the teenager fired first at police, even though no weapon was found at the scene.

At a meeting Wednesday of about 100 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, the group voted to rescind Fenty's invitation to the memorial service, Muzzatti said.

In a two-page letter to Lanier yesterday, Muzzatti wrote, "Fenty's statements and actions over the last eight months . . . have sent a clear message to all of law enforcement that this Mayor does not respect the sacrifices made by members of the law enforcement community on a daily basis."

Lanier's spokeswoman, Traci Hughes, said the chief does not intend to disinvite the mayor. Carrie Brooks, Fenty's spokeswoman, said the mayor does not think that he has lost the confidence of the city's police force.

"The mayor sees and talks to frontline officers every day, and he has not gotten that impression," Brooks said. Since taking office, Fenty has attended every police promotional ceremony and recruit graduation as a show of encouragement to the officers.

The memorial service is among the activities planned in connection with National Police Week, including a candlelight vigil set for Tuesday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The memorial service is sponsored each year by the auxiliary of Lodge 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police to honor officers from area jurisdictions.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said that because today's ceremony is for officers who died in the line of duty, it is appropriate for the mayor to pay his respects. Still, Mendelson added that he is "surprised at how strong the ill will is."

Kristopher Baumann, head of the labor committee of the city's 3,600-member police union, said he will encourage officers to be professional and respectful. But if Fenty is "desperate enough to show up, that will probably keep a lot of officers away and damage the event," Baumann said.

"I do not understand his need for publicity and showing up at a solemn event and embarrassing himself and the city," Baumann said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company