District of Columbia Police Chief Maurice T. Turner has concluded that his 6th District commander did nothing wrong when he implemented a policy that resulted in crimes being systematically downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors.
"It isn't an issue anymore," said Lt. Hiram Brewton, a police spokesman, in explaining Turner's decision to accept the findings of his top assistant over the protests of the Fraternal Order of Police, the bargaining agent for the rank and file. Turner has been out of town this week.
In accepting the conclusions of Assistant Chief Marty Tapscott, Turner has turned aside charges that deputy chief Isaac Fulwood manipulated statistics to show a drop in major crimes in his far Northeast district.
However, Turner has ordered a citywide study of crime-reporting procedures in an attempt to bring them into greater conformity.
In spite of Brewton's claim that the issue is dead, the FOP executive council, in a meeting this week, voted 17 to 0 to try to get Turner to change his mind, and barring that, to seek redress from the mayor, City Council or Congress.
FOP officials, while declining to comment on the issue publicly, believe that Fulwood's actions have undermined detective work and misled the public, and that Tapscott is covering it up, according to knowledgeable sources.
"I don't know what they're looking for," Tapscott said this week. "As far as I'm concerned, the thing has been settled and we're trying to get things back together again."
As with many issues within the police department, this one has taken on racial overtones, with black groups in the department and in the community charging that the FOP and the largely white police team that investigated Fulwood have manufactured allegations against him because Fulwood is black.
"I think race is an issue," Fulwood said yesterday. "If you look at who is being criticized, they're all black. All the people being recommended for disciplinary action are black, and all the people making the recommendations are white."
Insp. Roland W. Perry, who is white, headed the field investigation of Fulwood and concluded in a 117-page report that one-third of 6th district crime reports contained "discrepancies" and that Fulwood concealed much of the reclassifying from most of his staff. Perry recommended that five 6th District officials be sent to a police trial board for lying to investigators.
Tapscott, who is black and Perry's superior, rejected those conclusions, saying that Fulwood's policy was not unprecedented and that disciplinary actions would "lend credence to innuendoes that the investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt."
In February, the Organization of Black Metropolitan Police Officials wrote Turner that Fulwood's black subordinates "have been maltreated and maligned" by Perry's investigative staff, "composed totally of white officials who . . . are being insensitive and contemptuous."
Perry has not returned repeated telephone calls from a reporter.
Gary Hankins, president of the 2,800-member FOP bargaining committee, denied that the FOP, which is racially mixed, has acted out of any racial considerations.
"I'm not a racist and neither is my organization," Hankins said. "The only parallel we have with what they're trying to do with racism is what McCarthy did with communism. Nobody is going to be able to use race and McCarthy tactics with me. We will not succumb."
This 6th District dispute began last fall when Sgt. Raymond Dyer, a 12-year veteran, complained to his union representatives that he had been unjustly transferred to scooter patrol after he questioned Fulwood's crime reporting procedures.
At issue was Fulwood's decision to reclassify some felonies as misdemeanors because the evidence, in his view, was not sufficient to support the more serious charge.
Traditionally, police have assumed certain levels of criminal intent when classifying crimes. For instance, if a door had been forced open at a residence and the home ransacked, detectives normally would conclude that a burglary--a felony--had taken place even if nothing was reported missing.
Fulwood, however, regarded such instances as mere destruction of property or unlawful entry cases--misdemeanors--because without proof that property was missing, there could be no assumption that the intruder intended to burglarize the residence.
Perry agreed with Dyer's contention that the practice resulted in many crimes not being thoroughly investigated, since detectives seldom look into misdemeanors. Perry recommended that Dyer be reinstated, but Tapscott disagreed. The FOP said this week it will continue to seek to have Dyer reinstated to his old job.
FOP leaders have complained to Rep. Stanford Parris (R-Va.), who is sympathetic to their cause, according to a Parris aide. Hundreds of FOP members live in Parris' 8th Congressional District, which includes Alexandria and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. The aide said that Parris would be willing to block federal funds to the city "or anything else we can do to help" the FOP.
Meanwhile, Virginia Morris, chairman of the 300-member citizen's advisory group to the 6th police district, is questioning the FOP's motives and said her group was squarely behind Fulwood. The controversy, Morris said, "certainly has not given me any reason to lessen my confidence in chief Fulwood."