On Thanksgiving morning, District of Columbia Deputy Police Chief Alfonso Gibson was speeding down a Prince George's County road to meet with his boss on a shooting case when he was stopped by a county officer and given a $40 ticket.
But Gibson did not pay that ticket and never appeared in traffic court because of the intervention of Prince George's Police Chief John E. McHale Jr., who, when contacted by an upset Gibson, had the ticket voided and removed from police and court records.
Gibson's request that the ticket be quashed and McHale's decision to do so apparently violated state motor vehicle laws that permit only the courts or the state prosecutor to dispose of a ticket once it has been written.
It was only this week that the police contacted the state prosecutor to discuss the purging of Gibson's ticket, at which point the prosecutor's office scolded McHale for his actions and told him not to deal with speeding tickets in that manner again.
McHale said yesterday that he ordered the ticket voided after Gibson told him, during a meeting in the Prince George's police headquarters, that he had been enroute to an emergency when the county radar unit stopped him on Central Avenue for driving 12 miles an hour above the 30-mile-an-hour limit.
"I didn't think the guy deserved a ticket," McHale said.
"No agency is supposed to mess with the ticket," said a spokesman for the state's attorney's office. "In this case, the chief stepped in and had it taken care of when technically it should have gone through court like every other ticket and been voided there. They shouldn't have done and shouldn't do it again, but in terms of end results it was acceptable."
Gibson yesterday declined to discuss the incident or his request of McHale. "I'm not commenting on this [one way or the other]," he said, "I don't remember it."
Although McHale agreed to drop the ticket because Gibson told him he was on his way to an emergency, Gibson apparently made no mention of that to the officer who gave him the ticket. According to sources familiar with the incident, Gibson simply told the arresting officer: "Don't start writing, don't start writing, I'm the deputy chief of police in the District."
According to several accounts of the speeding incident, Gibson was stopped by a Bowie precinct radar unit when traveling west on Central Avenue near the intersection of Maryland Route 202.
Several other cars were also pulled over at the same time by the county police for traveling above the speed limit. As a police officer began writing tickets for the entire group, Gibson climbed out of a car -- his family's Chevrolet -- and approached to ask that the police officer not write a ticket.
As Gibson said, "Don't start writing, don't start writing," he put his arm around the police officer and informed him of his rank with the District police, according to accounts.
The police officer, with several speeders around him waiting for their tickets, told Gibson to return to his car, which, because it was family-owned, had no official police markings on it, and said he would be with him in a minute.
When the officer approached Gibson's car a few minutes later, the deputy chief was sitting in it, with his official badge visible in his lap. The officer wrote up the ticket and handed it to Gibson for his signature, sparking Gibson to comment, "This is the kind of courtesy you all extend here, huh?" The deputy chief made no mention at this time, sources said, of official business.
It was only seven hours later, according to accounts, that Gibson called police headquarters to say he had been stopped for speeding while enroute to official business and he wanted to know what could be done about his ticket.
Although nothing occurred at that time, a few days later all copies of Gibson's ticket -- including the officer's personal copy -- were sent to McHale's office at the request of one of the chief's aides.
Shortly after that, Gibson met with McHale and convinced the Prince George's chief to void the ticket, with the result being that Gibson saved $40 and no mention of the incident was made in either traffic court, central police records or state motor behicle records as the law requires.