Some Supervisors Not Affected by Missteps
By Mary Pat Flaherty
The problems besetting the D.C. police department aren't confined to the lower echelon, where the newer officers are. Department records show that since 1989, eight supervisors from the rank of sergeant to deputy chief have been arrested or summoned to appear in a criminal court.
Most have been charged with domestic assaults or thefts that netted them a few days' suspension from the force. They join other supervisors who through the years have been promoted despite scrapes with the law.
Such a practice hasn't escaped the notice of some officers who joined the department in 1989 and 1990 and later were disciplined themselves.
Those younger officers said in interviews that the message they pick up is that incidents that occur off duty as many of the supervisors' did aren't automatically career-threatening.
Chief Fred Thomas acknowledged that the promotions send a confusing signal to street officers. "I think that's a valid observation," he said. But he insisted that on a case-by-case basis, most can be explained.
The case of Deputy Chief Charles R. Bacon is so often told in the department that there is a shorthand for it among officers: "the Bacon rule." The essence of the rule is: Commit misconduct no worse than Bacon's, and you probably will keep your job.
"It only gets talked about when the media brings it up and it gets new life," Bacon said of such discussions.
The notion that police officers should do no worse than their supervisors is backward, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. said. "If there's going to be a differentiation," Holder said, "then the higher the position, the higher the standard of conduct should be."
Bacon was charged in 1981 with assault with intent to commit murder after he was accused of firing four shots at Esther H. Dimery, a D.C. detective with whom he was romantically involved. Prosecutors in Prince George's County, where the incident occurred, dropped the criminal case after Dimery, who was not injured, declined to testify. She and Bacon later married but are now divorced.
An internal police investigation, though, found Bacon guilty of misconduct and recommended that he be demoted from captain to lieutenant. Bacon successfully appealed that finding. Bacon was made an inspector in 1989. Three years later, then-Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. promoted him to deputy chief and made him commander of the 6th District in far Northeast and Southeast Washington.
Chaune D. Duffy, who joined the department in 1989 and worked in the 6th District, said he took Bacon's appointment to precinct commander as a sign.
In 1992, Duffy was accused of hitting a female friend and stealing money from her male companion. He was arrested on charges of assault, burglary and theft. Prosecutors offered to drop the charges if Duffy would resign from the force.
Duffy was in a quandary, until, he said, Bacon became his commander. "I thought to myself, 'Bacon got away with a lot worse.' Now, he's my commander. He's all right. He'll help me.' "
Duffy said he talked to Bacon who told Duffy to take the deal and get a new career.
"It ain't fair," said Duffy, who resigned. "He fired shots at somebody. He got promoted. I was wrong for what I did. But I got fired."
Last year, a female D.C. officer filed a criminal complaint against Bacon contending that he tried to ram her car. Prosecutors did not pursue a criminal charge and an internal investigation cleared Bacon.
Bacon has said since that he was dating the officer but denied ramming her car. After that incident, Thomas removed Bacon as commander of the 6th District and put him in charge of planning and research at headquarters.
Bacon's story may be the most well known, but it is not singular among current supervisors.
A string of domestic assault charges without any convictions in Prince George's County, including one in 1993, trail Deputy Chief Fred W. Raines, who served as the department's ethics officer under Fulwood and now heads the Police and Fire Clinic.
Thomas in 1993 named Inspector Claude J. Beheler commander of the 5th District in Northeast Washington. A few weeks later, the department sustained a sexual harassment complaint against Beheler, and the department's equal employment officer recommended a 20-day suspension without pay, which would have amounted to a $5,000 fine.
Thomas cut the suspension to five days. Beheler is appealing the finding.
Last year, Thomas promoted Inspector Winston Robinson to commander of the 7th District. In 1985, Robinson tried to flee D.C. police after an off-duty accident that occurred as he was driving home from a birthday party for then-Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. Officers at the scene said Robinson fought with them and gave a false name.
Robinson got a $50 ticket and a reprimand. Eventually, he was promoted to inspector and served as the court liaison officer.
Thomas said Robinson's work in the 7th District in the southeastern corner of the city has been exemplary in reducing homicides, controlling other violence and relating well to citizens.
"I don't think I have a double standard," said Thomas, who has spoken often and publicly about the need to elevate officers who can be a beacon of integrity. "How long does a man or woman pay for a transgression?"
Of those officers with disciplinary problems who were promoted before he took charge, Thomas said: "If the transgression was so egregious, why were they not fired at the time?"
Of those officers he has promoted himself, Thomas said: "Some of this gets down to a matter of personal opinion of what the person did. Was it an administrative violation of policy or a violation of law?"
That is reminiscent of the tone set by Fulwood during a 1989 promotion ceremony announcing Philip A. O'Donnell's rise to inspector.
O'Donnell had been disciplined by the department in 1987 after his car collided head-on with another in an off-duty accident that injured five people in Largo. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and ignoring a traffic signal.
Two years later, O'Donnell became an inspector and in 1992 deputy chief.
Acknowledging the traffic accident during the ceremony for O'Donnell's promotion to inspector, Fulwood suggested it was time to move forward. "He was involved in an off-duty incident and was punished."
Several younger officers who have since been arrested and resigned or been fired from the force seize on that same on-duty, off-duty distinction.
Kenneth Waters said he believes that it should have been applied to him and his cousin Kenneth Moody.
Waters and Moody became D.C. officers in 1990 and remained until 1993, when they pleaded guilty to an auto insurance scam after trying to collect about $3,500 for damages to Waters's car. The cousins resigned from the force rather than be fired, Waters said. "This is not a job where you expect second chances," he said, "and what we did was stupid. But this was an off-duty thing, and I think they should have been easier on us."
The public should go easier on younger officers since so many of the problems that got them arrested occurred off duty, Barry Moomau said.
Moomau, hired in 1990, and his brother, Jerry, who joined the department in 1991, were charged with disorderly conduct after fighting each other in the parking lot of a Prince George's County nightclub. The charges eventually were dropped.
Barry Moomau got a 10-day suspension without pay; his brother, five days.
"What happened to me off duty had nothing to do with the police department," Barry Moomau said.
The problem with arrests of officers might not loom so large if it weren't for one department rule, suggested Inspector Sonya Proctor, head of Internal Affairs.
Proctor, in an appearance on the April telecast of a monthly District Cablevision call-in show that features the D.C. police department, explained that department policy requires an officer who is arrested to report the incident to superiors which draws attention to off-duty incidents. "If they worked in many other places," she concluded, "these are the types of things that an employer might not ever know about."
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