Fentys take 'full responsibility' for kids' bikes swiped from open D.C. garage

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010; B05

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and his family took "full responsibility" for the theft of two bicycles from his open garage earlier this month and said Monday that the police officer guarding their Crestwood home followed protocol.

On June 3, thieves stole two "inexpensive" children's bikes and replaced them with two mountain bikes, according to a statement released by the D.C. mayor's office Monday. "The youngsters involved took off immediately after the swap," the statement read. "The Fentys take full responsibility for the open garage."

A report called a "Preliminary Public MPD Document," obtained by The Washington Post, said that officer Wilson Liriano was watching a surveillance monitor at the Fenty property when he saw a suspect riding a bike inside the garage shortly before two other suspects entered the garage. They stole the children's bikes, and first lady Michelle Fenty told police that the two bikes left behind did not belong to the family. The theft and Liriano's identity were first reported Monday by the Examiner, which said it obtained police records labeled "not for public distribution."

Fenty's delay in publicly acknowledging the theft earlier and a policy that prevents officers on duty from easily patrolling the mayor's property renewed concerns about Fenty's secrecy, which have included questions about not being more forthcoming with his public schedule and out-of-town travel as well as shunning police protection. The mayor has said his travel and family outings are private.

Kris Baumann, who heads the local Fraternal Order of Police, said he learned about the incident Saturday when the union was informed by police brass that Liriano was being investigated and would possibly be disciplined for allowing the theft.

Baumann said officers are required to continuously monitor surveillance cameras from a guard booth at the Fenty property and must immediately contact the commanding officer of the executive protection unit when there is an emergency. The unit's policy does not allow officers to adequately patrol the 17th Street NW property, because officers risk being disciplined for leaving the booth, Baumann said. He added that two officers assigned to the mayor's home have been disciplined since June 2008.

"This was a huge miss for the mayor. He could have said this happened. . . . Instead, he tried to hide it," said Baumann, whose union has endorsed Fenty's leading primary rival, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. "How do you go from not commenting and acting like this didn't happen to taking full responsibility for it in 24 hours?"

Sal Lifrieri, an expert in government protection who was assigned to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York, said every politician is different. "It really runs the gamut from very high-tech security, like the White House . . . to the guy who wants absolutely nothing and drives himself," he said.

Married couples and children also represent a special challenge. "It's very difficult in family situations to provide protection, because it becomes intrusive," Lifrieri said.

Last year, Fenty was criticized for an unannounced trip to Dubai, which later led to him explaining that he had accepted $25,000 from the United Arab Emirates for the week-long family vacation and that China had provided $11,300 for his trip to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

He was also faulted last year for allowing a friend, who was not a government employee, to drive a city-issued Lincoln Navigator, in violation of city law. Three months later, he was involved in a fender bender with a Nissan Pathfinder while driving with his then-9-year-old twin sons and infant daughter. Fenty quietly abandoned his driving detail in 2007, choosing to chauffeur himself in the Navigator and a city-issued Smart Car.

It was unclear whether the stolen bikes belonged to the twins, but a police report valued each at $300.

In June 2008, the Fentys' unfinished garage door was vandalized with graffiti, causing $50 in damage, according to a police report. Baumann said the officer on duty was written up for "dereliction."

In December, a different officer received a 15-day suspension and was transferred after a neighbor was able to approach the mayor, said Baumann. The officer is appealing the decision, Baumann said, who added that officers who work at the mayor's property "are terrified to leave the booth" for fear of disciplinary action.

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