Montgomery County Police Chief Robert J. DiGrazia has decided to release reports regularly to the public on the disciplinary actions taken against police officers even for the least infractions of the department's general orders.
In addition to listing such violations as improper conduct, neglect of duty and brutality, the reports will also include such infractions as tardiness, loss of temper and lying.
It's an effort, diGrazia said, to show citizens that police officers "are not Baretta or Columbo . . . but human beings with a very visible difficult job to do who sometimes make mistakes."
Although diGrazia is withholding the names of the officers disciplined, the Montgomery department is nevertheless the first in the area to make information available on every disciplinary case and on a regular basis. Generally the cases investigated by the police internal affairs office are kept confidential, except in cases where criminal conduct is alleged.
DiGrazia's action is the latest in a series of policy changes which the outspoken, often iconoclastic police chief has begun to try to create what he describes as an image of professionalism and progressive openness for his department. Formerly chief of police in Boston, diGrazia came to Montgomery in November 1976.
The first of these reports, relased last week, shows that the most serious disciplinary cases during the first three months of 1978 involved off-duty officers who were cited for driving while drunk. In one case, the officer disiplined had been driving his takehome police car while intoxicated.
In all the cases of drunk driving, the officers were issued traffic citations.
According to the report, one officer was cited for neglect of duty for leaving his assignment without his supervisor's permission, and another was penalized for the improper handling of evidence.
The most common infraction was that of tardiness. While most of the 11 officers disciplined had been at least 40 minutes late for roll call, one officer was disciplined for being only two minutes late. Another was penalized for arriving five minutes late.
The D.C. Police Department is the only other area department with a similar policy. The D.C. police make known the results of all disciplinary cases that go before a police trial board. However, those cases involve only serious infractions of police regulations, according to a D.C. police spokesman.
"We wouldn't bother with (making public) something so petty as tardiness," the spokesman said.
But diGrazia says he is trying to show "that just because we're police officers, we're not perfect. Maybe the public will realize that we're not a supersecret agency, but a police agency with a responsibility to the public."
Unlike the District of Columbia, though, which releases the names of the officers disciplined, diGrazia identifies the officers disciplined by their sex, race, number of years on the forces and duty assignment.
Pfc. Leonard Simpson, president of the Fraternal order of Police, however, thinks that the chief is releasing too many details about the officers who are charged, so that most members of the department can discern the identities of those disciplined even though the names are withheld.
"For example, if you say an American Indian male with 12 years service assigned to CID (criminal investigation division), well there's probably only one American Indian in CID . . . it's and embarrassing situation."
Simpson said his organization will request that the chief release information only on those cases in which the officer disciplined agrees to have the information revealed. The fraternal order will also ask the chief to use more general descriptions of the officers so that they cannot be identified by colleagues.