D.C. police official Diane Groomes placed on leave over allegedly 'compromising' a department test

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 19, 2010; 10:43 PM

A high-ranking D.C. police official has been placed on administrative leave over allegations that she was involved in "compromising" a test given to fellow members of the department's command staff, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced Friday.

The official, Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, a 20-year member of the department, oversees the patrol services and school security bureau, which includes hundreds of front-line officers assigned to seven district stations across the city. She is one of the most publicly visible officials in the department's upper echelon.

In a brief statement issued shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, as most of the city government was shutting down for the weekend, a police spokeswoman said Lanier had placed Groomes on "administrative leave pending further investigation into an allegation that she was involved in compromising a test administered to some members of the command staff as part of their in-service training."

The spokeswoman, Gwendolyn Crump, said the chief would have no further comment on the investigation, the nature of the test or how Groomes allegedly compromised the exam. "That's all we're releasing - that statement," Crump said.

Groomes, 44, whose annual salary is about $150,000, did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment or a message left on her cellphone Friday. The department's internal affairs unit is handling the investigation, Crump said.

Groomes said last night that "I am sorry for my actions and bad judgment . . . and for the discredit I caused to the best chief, department . . . and city."

Kristopher Baumann, a top official of the labor union representing lower-ranking officers on the 4,000-member force, said the term "command staff" usually means the department's 60 to 70 captains, inspectors and commanders, as well as its five uniformed assistant chiefs and a few civilians who are the equivalent of assistant chiefs.

Baumann, chairman of the labor committee of Lodge 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said D.C. law requires officers of all ranks to complete 32 hours of "professional development training" annually, which the department calls "in-service training." He said officers meet the requirement in myriad ways, by attending outside seminars or in-house training programs covering a variety of topics.

Baumann said the internal training sessions often are tailored for officers of particular ranks and assignments, including training intended for top officials. He said he did not know of any recent training specifically for the command staff.

The in-service exam that Groomes has been accused of compromising has been thrown out, the department said in its statement: "To protect the integrity of the process, the test results for all members of the command staff have been invalidated and a new test will be developed."

The patrol bureau, which will be headed by another assistant chief in Groomes's absence, is by far the largest of the department's seven bureaus and the one with which citizens most often interact. Groomes has been the public face of the department at numerous community meetings throughout the city, listening to concerns about street crime, from vandalism to shootings, and other nuisances.

"She has made everyone safer by making 'community policing' a reality," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. "From where I live in Mount Pleasant to every other part of town, she has walked the streets with residents and small-business owners and made our neighborhoods better."

Replacing Groomes will be Assistant Chief Alfred Durham, who is the department's executive officer and second in command to Lanier.

Groomes's long career includes many patrol assignments, including as a sergeant in Northeast, as a lieutenant and then an inspector in charge of the 3rd District Station, covering neighborhoods with stubborn drug and violence problems, such as Pleasant Plains and the Park Morton apartment complex.

She later became commander of the First District, in charge of similar problem areas, but also the night life of Chinatown and residential areas of Capitol Hill.

She became known for blunt talk to residents and long hours on the street to try to solve problems. Groomes often has been present at scenes of violent crimes, and for many years was a face of the department during television interviews about such incidents.

dugganp@washpost.com Staff writers Allison Klein and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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