Officer Bobby Walker, one of three D.C. policemen charged recently with distribution of cocaine, denies the charges but says he has used drugs and that drug use in the police department extends well beyond what was revealed in the investigation that led to his arrest.
"If they wanted to do the right thing," Walker said of police officials in a recent interview, "they would have started a drug therapy program within the department. They are going about trying to solve the drug problem in the department the wrong way."
Walker, a 13-year department veteran who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 18, said he used drugs in part because he knew that other officers were doing so and it did not seem to affect their job performance.
While he maintained that other officers use drugs, Walker offered no specific examples and declined to give an estimate of the extent of drug use in the department. On transcripts of tape recordings made in the investigation of Walker, he indicates that he has smoked marijuana on duty.
Police Chief Maurice T. Turner strongly disputes Walker's contention that there is an extensive drug problem among officers, though he acknowledges there have been isolated instances of drug use.
Turner said the department has one of the most stringent testing programs of any police force in the nation to determine if officers are using drugs.
Last year, the department placed on leave 39 new officers at the police academy, saying that a surprise urine test had showed that the officers used marijuana. Virtually all the officers were eventually reinstated, however, after questions were raised about the handling of the test.
"We actively investigate all allegations of officers using drugs," Turner said. "I don't think those people should be police officers. It's hard for me to envision a police officer locking someone up for the same violation he's committing."
Deputy Chief Rodwell M. Catoe, commander of the 3rd District where Walker was assigned, said he believes the drug problem in the department is more extensive than the case in which Walker and the other two officers were arrested. "How widespread, I don't know," Catoe said.
Catoe said he does not know of any officers using drugs on duty. "I would think our supervision and control is such that if it were happening on duty, we would know about it," he said.
Walker, 34, was arrested in March along with three other veteran officers and charged with two counts of cocaine distribution, as a result of a year-long undercover investigation. A fourth officer was arrested on a charge of possession of PCP. All of the officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Three civilians, accused of supplying drugs to the officers, were also arrested and charged with cocaine distribution. Two of the civilians have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The third has pleaded not guilty.
Walker, who like the other arrested officers is on administrative leave without pay pending resolution of the case, faces up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted on the cocaine distribution charges.
Walker maintains that he was entrapped and that he is innocent of distribution because no money for the sale of cocaine was ever paid to him.
"I knew I was taking a big risk taking drugs," said Walker, who has received six commendations for his police work over the years, in the recent interview. "But it seemed to ease me for a time, so I would not have to worry about the job. But I know I didn't sell any cocaine."
According to statements made in court, the government alleges that the distribution charges against Walker stem from two tape-recorded conversations Walker held with A.D. Williams, a police officer who, unknown to Walker, was working in conjunction with the department's internal affairs division.
According to transcripts of the conversations, Williams asked Walker to arrange cocaine purchases, ostensibly for Williams' girlfriend. Walker allegedly arranged for Williams to make two cocaine purchases from a third party, the transcripts indicate.
The transcripts indicate that at one point Williams told Walker he no longer used drugs because the police department had placed him in an alcohol abuse program.
According to the transcripts, Williams, apparently referring to marijuana use, asked Walker, "Do you be doing it on duty?"
Walker responded, according to the transcripts: "Hell yes, you know goddamn well I be smoking on duty."
According to a source close to the case, the alleged purchases were for a total of 2.5 grams of the drug. The price for each alleged purchase was $120, sources said.
Walker's attorney, W. Edward Thompson, said, "He Walker may be guilty of bad conduct and having bad friends. But is what he did legally sufficient to make him an aider and abetter in the distribution of cocaine?"
Thompson contends that Walker was entrapped because Williams, who sources said had been in a drug-abuse program, came to him and asked him to set up a cocaine transaction. The officers who conducted the undercover investigation "are the ones who elicited the crime and carried it out," Thompson said.
Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office have declined to comment on the case. Williams could not be reached for comment.
Walker says he began using drugs--including marijuana, PCP, hashish and eventually cocaine--because of frustration over his job and the fact that he never achieved as much as he thought he should as a policeman.
He said part of his frustration stemmed from being "written up" on various occasions for administrative infractions, such as sleeping on duty and not maintaining a home telephone, while other officers violated such rules with no consequences.
Walker maintains that he was singled out as a target of the undercover investigation because he was quoted in a newspaper article last summer as saying he refused to make arrests to fill a quota that a 3rd District captain had set for his officers.
Walker, who at the time was assigned to a foot patrol in the 14th Street NW area, the heart of the city's illegal drug trade, said in the recent interview, "I wasn't going to do it make arrests because the captain wanted it for his statistics."
He added, "The more arrests you make, the more hostile people become. Most drug arrests are misdemeanors anyway, and they end in the person getting probation."
Walker said that the police department's effort to keep crowds of drug addicts and dealers moving from one part of the 14th Street corridor to another "was not a thing to do to get at the drug problem in the city."
Walker added that his own drug use helped change his attitude about making drug arrests.
"Drugs calmed me down, they made me relaxed," he said. "It was not as if these people drug users were committing crimes against other persons."
In addition, Walker said, he knew that other officers were using drugs, and "they weren't having any problems." Walker declined to name any other officers who are using drugs.
The other two officers charged with cocaine distribution in the case are Bryson Laudenberger Jr., 34, and Darryl Maurice Williams, 28. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Officer James R. Gibson Jr., 31, was sitting in the same car with Williams when Williams was arrested and is charged with possession of PCP. Gibson has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has filed papers in Superior Court maintaining that Gibson's arrest resulted from an illegal search and the charges against him should be dropped.
The civilians charged were Samuel Lanier Rue, 35, of Silver Spring; David Brent, 29, a Northeast Washington cab driver, and Douglas Leon Pinder, 36, also of Northwest Washington, then employed as an educational counselor at the Armstrong Adult Education Center.
Pinder and Rue have pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution. Brent has pleaded not guilty.
Walker said that no matter what a jury decides at his trial, he knows he will probably never again work as a police officer. He said he wishes he had been given the opportunity to enter a drug treatment program before he was prosecuted.
Catoe, Walker's former commanding officer, said he believes the department should "offer an avenue to people who want to free themselves of drug dependency." But any officer who uses drugs illegally should be prosecuted, he said.
"A violation of the law," Catoe said, "is a violation of the law."