A 29-year-old former District police officer has been awarded $55,000 by a D.C. Superior Court jury that found he had been wrongfully arrested and charged with impersonating a policeman three years after he left the force.
The case of mistaken identity that led to the successful suit Wednesday against the city government began in February 1976 when former police officer Robert V. Walters, of Northwest Washington, lent his car to a friend who was a police officer.
Police Cadet Judy Basham saw the car illegally parked at the corner of 11th and G streets NW, according to court papers, and began writing a ticket.
"A man approached (her) and attempted to dissuade her from writing the ticket by identifying himself as a police officer," according to a pretrial statement filed by the city government. The man showed her a police I.D. and a gun that he had concealed under his shirt.
She wrote the ticket anyway, but later that day told her supervisor, Sgt. Vern L. Rocke, about the incident.
Rocke checked the license number of the car and found it registered to Walters. Rocke "recalled" that Walters was a former police officer. The two had served together in the same district but Rocke said he did not actually know Walters, according to court documents.
When Rocke showed Basham a picture of Walters, she identified him as the man she had ticketed. Walters was arrested four days later, charged with impersonating a police officer, and jailed "for a few hours," according to court documents.
Walters, who was dismissed from the police department in 1973 after serving three years, charged that the arrest had cause him "embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish."
Attorneys for the city government said they are reviewing ways to have the award reduced or overturned.