D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., ending a four-week silence about alleged wrongdoing by police officers in the 4th District, said in a statement released yesterday that the department's Internal Affairs Division did not know about allegations that members of the 4th District vice unit kept drugs and money seized during raids.
"The allegation that the Internal Affairs Division had prior knowledge of criminal wrongdoing in the 4th District vice unit and failed to take action is totally false and misleading," Turner's statement said.
The statement said that internal affairs did not learn of the alleged skimming until Aug. 27, when the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office informed the department of an FBI investigation into the charges.
The Washington Post reported the same day that the FBI, without informing Turner or internal affairs, had been investigating allegations that some D.C. narcotics officers were personally profiting from their handling of drug cases.
Thirteen days later, the FBI, armed with grand jury subpoenas and aided by members of internal affairs, searched the 4th District vice office and seized a van-load of documents, including notebooks, warrants, affidavits and other documents.
The U.S. attorney's office subsequently announced it would drop 300 to 400 pending drug cases investigated by members of the unit, a decision, sources said, was made primarily because prosecutors suspect that officers frequently lied in the process of obtaining warrants connected with the cases.
The entire 16-member unit has been reassigned pending completion of the FBI's investigation.
Turner's statement did not address allegations that some officers assigned to the 4th District tipped off drug dealers about Operation Caribbean Cruise, the February 1986 drug sweep that yielded few illegal drug seizures or arrests. The FBI also is investigating the allegations of tipoffs.
Former Deputy Chief James P. Shugart, who commanded the 4th District when Caribbean Cruise was staged, said in a news conference this week that an investigation showed the allegations were unsubstantiated.
Sources have alleged that the investigation was stopped prematurely.
Turner, calling the federal probe "extremely sensitive," said in his statement that news reports of the investigation have been "to a large degree sensationalized," adding, "Unfortunately, we have to withstand this criticism until such a time as the investigation is concluded."
"Our citizens must be mindful of the fact that to assert without proof that misconduct has occurred has far-reaching implications," the statement said. "However, no probable cause or facts have been developed at this time that have resulted in criminal charges being filed against any member of the department. Therefore, I would be extremely unprofessional to speculate on allegations."
Turner, who has not commented on the probe since an Aug. 28 news conference and who has ordered others in the department not to comment, explained in the statement, "It has been a longstanding practice of this department that while an investigation is ongoing, we must refrain from releasing specific details" that might affect the integrity of the probe, violate privacy rights, or "impede the fair and impartial judicial process."