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D.C. police official trying to fix culture that left relative's slaying unsolved

By Clarence Williams
Friday, July 16, 2010; B01

It was near dawn, the last call of Ozetta Posey's midnight shift but her first homicide as a detective. A sheet covered the body, which was soaked by the early-morning downpour. Her job was to secure the scene until homicide detectives arrived.

"Who is it?" Posey asked her partner as they walked in the quiet, past rowhouses in upper Northwest.

"It's a guy with a hole in his head," Posey recalled him saying.

Curious, she knelt, pulled back the sheet and found herself staring at the familiar face of her brother-in-law. The two had been together for hours on the previous day.

This coincidental encounter changed the arc of Posey's career. Her personal and professional lives had intersected and, more than seven years later, remain intertwined. In her estimation, the investigation was botched, her family mistreated.

"It's still open because they never did a proper investigation from the beginning," said Posey, who decided to do something about it.

Now she is a homicide lieutenant, and for the past three years one of her two squads has had the highest closure rate in the city. She helped establish new rules for investigators, often rankling colleagues with her blunt, by-the-book style.

Cut no corners. Work all angles.

'Dead or in jail'

The daughter of a military man, Posey was raised throughout the mid-Atlantic states and played college basketball. She became a police officer in 1994. She started in patrol, during the height of the city's crack wars.

Posey, 47, moved to the vice unit, buying narcotics from street-level dealers. The work was exciting but frustrating.

"You want to lock up all the drug dealers in the world, then you lock up one and you realize you have eight more to take his place," Posey said.

Eventually, she made detective and was assigned to the 4th District in upper Northwest, the assignment that led her to the scene of her brother-in-law's slaying.

Robert Bundy was 43 when he was killed that November morning. A resident of the block found him and called police, probably hours after he was shot.

Posey and her family remember a good man who loved old R&B music and working on cars -- including Posey's first, a vintage Mustang.

Her brother-in-law left behind a son who shares his name. At the time, the younger Robert Bundy began skipping classes at Alice Deal Junior High. He missed more than 60 classes before his family found out. He and his friends were being pulled into a life in which drugs, drinking, smoking and fighting were routine.

A mother and now a grandmother, Posey feared he'd be lost to the streets, so she moved him out of Petworth and into her home in Montgomery County. She set rigid rules and applied for permanent guardianship.

Now he is a rising senior at Virginia Union University, studying criminal justice.

"She didn't take no stuff," said Robert, 21. "All that nonsense, I had to cut all that out. I can honestly say that if she didn't do what she did, I would be dead or in jail. She's my angel."

A new approach to cases

At work, Posey applied the same stiff rules of accountability.

In March 2006, she made the jump to homicide as a sergeant, in charge of a squad of veteran detectives. She had never investigated a homicide.

But she knew this about her brother-in-law's case: Investigators did not speak to her even though she had spent hours with him hours before he was killed. Investigators, against policy, notified her juvenile niece instead of an adult family member, and they did so on the front porch of her home rather than indoors. Posey felt that as a fellow officer she was treated rudely and dismissively.

Posey leaned on a few experienced colleagues for advice, including Robert Alder, then a 15-year veteran, who said he was near burnout. Alder, who has since made lieutenant, said Posey struggled at first. Her squad's closure rate was "very low."

Detectives were skeptical of the approach she implemented: When a case came in, unless something else was pressing, each detective in the squad would go full bore working as a team, following every lead for days in a row.

The old way, particularly during the 1990s, was that detectives were given a set of cases, sometimes as many as 30, that were their individual responsibility.

"I don't think her approach necessarily could have worked when we had 400-and-some murders every year," Alder said.

To show her detectives she wasn't all talk, Posey joined them on the streets, visiting crime scenes, knocking on doors and passing out fliers in hopes of finding a lead.

"She's one of the few officials that would go and do a detective's job," Alder said.

Posey also rotated her schedule between day, evening and midnight shifts along with her squad. If her staff had to miss holidays and sleep, so would she. But her rules are clear. Don't miss court dates. Don't get into trouble. Don't make stupid mistakes. And this: "No crying, complaining and whining," Posey told her staff.

She said many disagree with her, especially the dozen or so detectives who left or were dismissed from the homicide division.

But those who remained between 2007 and 2009 on one of her teams, Squad 5, posted the highest closure rate in the city for three years. The last two winners of detective of the year awards -- Anthony Greene and Robert Cephas -- worked for her. "You can say whatever you want to say, but you can't argue with success," said Alder, the District's 2009 sergeant of the year. "The numbers speak for themselves."

'These are the worst'

Recently at 4 a.m., Posey stood bleary-eyed but well dressed in a crisp black blouse, tweed slacks and shined black boots. Silver hoops dangled from her ears as she repeatedly pulled her BlackBerry from its holster next to her service weapon.

Ten feet away lay Dawan Anthony Felder, 28, of Clinton, who was shot and left to bleed to death on the edge of a sidewalk near a Ford Bronco. The victim's feet pointed to the entrance of a three-story apartment building, nearly every unit darkened.

The 5000 block of D Street SE was empty except for the officers, uniformed and plainclothes, investigating the case. No witnesses. No grieving family. No cameras.

"These are the worst. You wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning, take a shower, put on something presentable and show up in an isolated part of town. Look at it: This is isolated," Posey told a reporter. "This is the part that hurts me the most. It's agonizing. That's somebody's family member there, and no one seems to care."

Since the shooting, Posey's detectives had been trying to identify the victim, contact his family, and take officer and witness statements.

After five years in homicide, Posey knows, now more than ever, that's not always possible. She has sifted through her brother-in-law's case several times, but the case remains open. Sometimes detectives make connections, sometimes they don't.

Posey has two new squads, and she's trying to get them to be as successful as her previous teams.

But for now, on this morning, Posey and two detectives paced the crime scene, she limping slightly from an old injury she suffered as an undercover officer when she was hit by a car. They waited for a medical examiner's van to remove the body and for a tow truck to haul away a vehicle that might contain vital evidence. Mostly, they just waited for the sunrise, which makes it easier to find such clues as shell casings or a blood trail.

That day, a Sunday, Posey had planned to take one of her Harley-Davidson motorcycles out for a ride. But that would have to wait. There were doors to knock on, leads to follow and, hopefully, an arrest to make.

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