A bitter Deputy D.C. Police Chief William Trussell, reinstated Friday as chief of homicide detectives, held out the possibility yesterday that he might sue some of the detectives who made allegations against him.
Trussell, in his first press conference since the allegations were made last May, said he wants first to "review the complete investigation" by a panel that cleared him of charges that he was incompetent at his job and had made a racial slur. Then, Trussell said, he will make a decision on legal action.
"I don't have any definite plans," he said regarding possible legal action.
The panel, consisting of two assistant police chiefs and a police department attorney, cleared Trussell of the allegations, which were raised last May in an unprecedented open rebellion within the city's homicide division.
But the panel nevertheless recommended by a 2-to-1 vote that Trussell be removed from his post, at least in part because his previously stated intention to sue some detectives for libel made his "ability to regain effective control of the division . . . increasingly doubtful."
Yesterday, Trussell held out no words of truce toward the 47-member homicide division. Instead, he described Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson's decision to reinstate him as a decision "we all now are going to have to live with."
Police union president Larry Simons said last night that Mayor Marion Barry had scheduled a meeting with union leaders and Jefferson for tomorrow morning to discuss the continuing Trussell controversy. Simons announced the meeting during a strategy session attended by almost the entire homicide squad last night at Holy Rosary Church, Third and F streets NW.
Trussel, looking trim and relaxed in a dark blue suit, stressed that he does not foresee problems with resuming command of the homicide division. Nor, he said, does he foresee any transfers of detectives currently assigned there.
Asked whether he believes the current controversy has created a morale problem in the homicide squad, Trussell said, "Whether or not there's a morale problem is speculative . . . There's nothing wrong with my morale," adding that if anyone in the department suffers from low morale, it is "their problem."
Commenting publicly for the first time on the charge that he made a racially derogatory statement, Trussell said the statement came up during a conversation abut "the effects of wounds and injuries on human beings." He merely stated, he said, "I had seen blacks, not go into shock when injured.
"Under no circumstances," he said, did he "compare blacks to animals," as was alleged.
He said of his accusers, "If they intended to give me a great deal of anguish, they've been very successful."
Some homicide detectives, however, expressed anger privately upon learning that Trussell had left open the possibility of suing.
"It only proves that the panel was right," said one detective. "He will not be able to lead this division and carry out a personal vendetta too."
In addition, Jefferson's transfer of homicide Capt. Arif Mosrie, who had supported the detectives after an initial attempt to defuse the controversy, still grated on a number of the detectives.
Mosrie will be transferred to the 6th District in far Northeast Washington as a watch commander, the department announced yesterday.
Trussell, who had placed administrative charges against Mosrie before the investigation, stressed yesterday that Mosrie's transfer was Jefferson's decision, not his.
A number of officers said they did not intend to hold Mosrie's transfer to a low crime district in northern Anacostia against Mosrie's successor, Charles Samarra, a captain from the internal affairs division.
Detective Eddie Meyers called Samarra "a good guy," and added, "Our main concern is [that] our captain who we like is gone."
Samarra is the third officer to come into the homicide division from the police internal affairs division, which Trussell once commanded. The feeling is widespread among some detectives that Trussell may intend to bring into the division more of his former associates from internal affairs.
"Once an internal affairs officer, always an internal affairs officer," said one detective in response to Samarra's appointment.
Mosrie, meanwhile, held a division meeting yesterday after Samarra's appointment to urge about 20 detectives to fully cooperate with Samarra, whom he called "an excellent choice."
"I told the men I do not want to do anything to inflame the situation. I don't want them to do anything to hurt their careers," said Mosrie, whose comments met with applause from the detectives.
Mosrie has called for a hearing on his transfer, charging that it was punitive. He also has hired an attorney.
At the homicide squad strategy meeting last night, detectives called the scheduled session with Barry "a good sign."
"Our captain [Mosrie] was used as a scapegoat," Detective James W. Slawson said, "We're sticking together on this . . . "
The detectives said the issues they hope to raise include Trussell's contemplated legal action and what they feel was Jefferson's punitive transfer of Mosrie after pledging last May that "there would be no reprisals."
Two black homicide detectives, Clarence L. Muse and McKinley Williams, objected to reports that the homicide squad had used the alleged racial remark only as an expedient way to get Trussell removed.
"That's why we're primarily here," Muse said. "These guys [detectives] may be a little more conservative, but they're no racists." Muse and Williams said they rejected calls from a smaller group, the Afro-American Police Officers Association, for black officers to quit the police union which the association claims is white-dominated.
"I have nothing but the highest regard for the [homicide] guys," Muse said.
Also contributing to this story was staff writer Tom Sherwood.