A story in Friday's Metro section about the investigation of a theft at the 4th District police station incorrectly identified the sister of the officer whose family was to receive the money. Her name is Mary Short-Davis. (Published 10/11/1999)
D.C. police are investigating who stole money from a safe inside the 4th District police station, absconding with the proceeds from a fund-raiser to benefit the family of an officer who died of cancer.
At least one other theft has occurred since then, and the incidents have so alarmed the department that D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he is considering installing cameras in front of the police safes.
"We are looking at that for control of property," Ramsey said. "This is not a typical case. This doesn't happen often. We want to find out who is culpable."
The money stolen from the 4th District was raised in March 1998 at a benefit cookout for the family of Detective Harold Moseley, who had died of cancer a month earlier. Last October, when police retrieved the funds, they found $2,000 in checks, but an unknown amount of cash was missing.
In August, $12,000 vanished from a safe in the 2nd District. No one has been arrested in either incident.
Ramsey, who discussed the Moseley case during a radio show on WTOP, said in a separate interview that if an officer is found to be responsible, the officer will be fired and will face criminal charges.
"A thief is a thief," Ramsey said. "It doesn't matter if it's a member of the department or a citizen."
The theft apparently was made easy because the safe was not locked. Terrance W. Gainer, the executive assistant police chief, blamed "sloppy procedures."
The safe was in an outer area of the district's administration office. Gainer said the department may have to repay the money. "We're responsible," he said. "There has been some litigation about whether the district has to repay the money it loses. But we don't have a line item in our budget to replace money that is stolen."
Earlier this year, a District court of appeals ruled that a woman who lost $3,709 after it was stolen by a police officer was not entitled to reimbursement. The court, citing a District law, said the government is not responsible for lost or damaged property unless gross negligence is proven. If an employee is negligent, the judges ruled, the employee alone will be held liable.
At the 4th District, several officers said only colleagues had access to the safe. "They were the only ones who could get at it," one officer said. "Somebody got greedy.
But Detective Frank Tracy, chairman of the police labor union, said he is withholding judgment. "It could have been other workers in the building or it could have been police," Tracy said.
Moseley was a respected 17-year veteran. His sister, Mary Smith, organized the fund-raiser after his death.
"He was a policeman's policeman," the detective said. "He was one of the nicest men you would ever want to meet. It was raised for that purpose, and it was stolen."
Staff writer Allan Lengel and researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.