Three Fairfax County police officers have been kicked off the police department's "jump-out team" after making an unofficial late-night visit to the home of a Loudoun County man who allegedly threatened a Fairfax officer's wife.
Ten members of the team, including two supervisors, got off work about midnight on April 10 and drove together to the man's Leesburg apartment to deliver a "strong message" to stay away from the wife, a police official said. They were armed and dressed in the team's full uniform of dark military-type fatigues, he said.
"They wanted to make an impact," said Lt. Col. Michael Young, deputy police chief for operations. "They made a mistake. It could have been serious."
By conducting what appeared to be official business outside the county, the off-duty officers violated police department regulations, Young said.
As a result of the incident, the supervisors of the team -- a lieutenant and a sergeant -- and the investigator whose wife allegedly received the threat were disciplined and transferred to other areas of the department, Young said. The internal investigation was completed last month, complicated by the large numbers of participants, he said.
Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael said that no laws were broken and no force was used by the officers that night. However, he said, the man complained about his late-night visitors to Loudoun officials. "The individual was not receptive to that approach," said Carmichael.
Carmichael said the man, who was not identified, had been targeted by the jump-out team as a drug suspect. Sometime later, the man saw the wife of an investigator on the team at a local bowling alley and made what was "construed as a threat" to her, he said. According to a police source, the investigator was "really upset" about the comments made to his wife.
Young said the trip to Loudoun became "a matter of support among the peers" on the jump-out team, which is officially known of as the Narcotics Enforcement Team. "It was a very human reaction. I can say it was an overreaction," he said.
Young said that an internal investigation into the April 10 incident revealed that "nothing really wrong happened" that night. After police arrived at the apartment complex, they telephoned the man and asked him to come outside, Young said.
The man declined the invitation and instead invited the officers inside, Young said. Two officers went into the apartment, while others were visible outside during the visit, he said.
The jump-out team was formed by the police department about three years ago to coincide with the arrival of a new problem in the county: open-air drug markets. The team has had success in disrupting the markets at an early stage, according to law enforcement officials.
Despite the team's successes, Young said the supervisors should have known better than to condone the officers' action that night and accompany them.
"We depend on those stripes to mean something," Young said of the supervisors.
"They knew there was a jurisdictional problem."