Finds 65 Cases
Of Police Misconduct
By Cheryl W. Thompson
A special D.C. Council committee investigating wrongdoing in the police department found 65 instances of misconduct, including diversion of funds, abuse of power, theft of equipment and submission of falsified employment applications, according to a report released yesterday.
The investigation also found that administrators knowingly hired unqualified officers and allowed recruits to walk beats alone and assist in arrests before completing the necessary training. Further, the report said, department policy did not bar applicants who committed violent crimes as juveniles including murder.
"There clearly are problems, and what this does is make the chief aware of them," D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), co-chairman of the special committee investigating misconduct, said yesterday at a news conference. "The department needs management very desperately."
The 65 cases of misconduct will be turned over to the U.S. attorney's office, the inspector general or the police department's Office of Professional Responsibility, depending on the severity of the allegation. About one-third of those accused of misconduct are lieutenants and above, officials said.
The $400,000 investigation was headed by special counsel Mark H. Tuohey and launched last December by the D.C. Council in the wake of allegations of misconduct and mismanagement in the 3,555-member department. The committee issued 150 subpoenas, interviewed 175 witnesses and held six public hearings.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who said he had not read the report in detail, said city officials should stop "rehashing" what's wrong with the department and help it move forward.
"We can keep rehashing all we want," Ramsey said. "But I've done what I've done [restructuring] so we no longer suffer from these kinds of problems."
Former chief Larry D. Soulsby, who was chief when much of the misconduct and mismanagement reportedly occurred, refused to talk with investigators and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, Tuohey said. Soulsby is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly sharing a luxury apartment with a lieutenant at an improperly discounted rate.
The committee's investigation examined whistle-blowing and retaliation in the department; recruiting, training and performance evaluation; overtime and off-duty police employment; management of equipment, property and information technology; citizen interaction and community policing; and investigation and discipline of police misconduct. It is one of three investigations into alleged wrongdoing by police officers; the others are by the U.S. attorney's office and the inspector general.
Although the eight-month probe found no evidence of "extensive or institutional" police corruption, there were instances of individual police misconduct and gross mismanagement, the report said.
The investigation found that while Sonya T. Proctor was interim chief, recruits were allowed to walk beats alone, assist in drug operations and perform other duties before completing the necessary training. Proctor, who retired last month, testified before the committee that the recruits were performing only support tasks.
"The special committee is disturbed that the [police department] would place the lives of the new recruits, as well as the lives of citizens, in jeopardy by placing untrained officers in potentially dangerous situations," the report said.
Proctor did not return telephone calls to her home yesterday.
In late 1996, several police administrators, including Soulsby and then-Deputy Chief Max Krupo, ignored the normal hiring process, according to the report and Tuohey. Instead, the officials adopted a "contingent hiring process," sending applicants to the training academy before background checks were completed. The department hired 113 recruits in January and February 1997 before finishing background checks and later fired 22 of them.
The investigation also found that many homicide detectives and vice officers "abused and manipulated" the overtime pay system by getting prosecutors to put them on a list to receive court overtime for investigations even though they had virtually no role in the probes. Some of the officers doubled and even tripled their salaries.
Many off-duty employment opportunities are controlled by police "brokers," administrators and officers who handpick, schedule and collect a fee from officers, a clear violation of department regulations, the investigation found.
For example, a detective would get officers security jobs at the Wendy's fast-food chain, then charge them a $60-a-month "scheduling fee."
The investigation also found that:
To ensure that the findings aren't ignored, the council is drafting legislation, to be submitted to the D.C. financial control board, that recommends changes in the police department, including requiring 32 hours a year of in-house training for officers and creating a provisional retirement status that would not allow officers under disciplinary investigation to "escape entirely the consequences of their misconduct."
The legislation also would prohibit officers from working off-duty at businesses that serve alcohol; two D.C. officers have been killed in incidents involving nightclubs in the last two years.
The council also has recommended revision of the department's rules and regulations; an overhaul of procedures for internal investigations; and promotions based on merit and performance.
"These are major policy changes," Evans said. "This report won't be just another report put on the shelf."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company