An Alexandria police detective and the union that represents her charged this week that a City Council member tried to intimidate and harass the officer when she investigated the council member's son in a vandalism case.
Council member Joyce Woodson (D) wrote a lengthy complaint about the detective's treatment of her on city letterhead and submitted it to the city manager in July, shortly before her 18-year-old son was arrested in a highly publicized egging incident. He was convicted of property destruction.
Woodson and city officials have refused to make public a copy of her complaint against Detective Adrienne Miller, a decorated 11-year veteran of the department. A police investigation of the complaint concluded this month and cleared Miller of wrongdoing.
Woodson said yesterday she would release the complaint Monday along with other evidence she said will show that neither she nor her husband, S. Howard Woodson, the president of the city's NAACP, tried to harass or intimidate the police officer.
"Nothing was done improperly. I did not get in the way of the police investigation. At no time did I file a complaint about the way the police handled my son's arrest. The complaint I filed had to do with the way one police officer spoke to me," Woodson said.
Miller, 40, said Woodson tried to forbid her son to talk with the detective when she went to their home to interview the young man, Samuel Howard Woodson IV, known as Max, in July.
"She could have been charged with impeding an investigation," Miller said. "She was absolutely trying to get him not to speak with me. He's an adult, and that's impeding."
Miller said that when she arrived at the Woodson home, Joyce Woodson "just exploded. She was screaming: 'How dare you come to my house and accuse my son of such a thing. There was no evidence he was involved.'
"I said, 'Ma'am, I have reason to believe your son was involved, and I have reason to believe you knew about it.' "
Woodson said she was not aware of her son's involvement in the egging until the police detective appeared, and she denied Miller's allegation that she did.
"If you accuse me of lying and I'm not lying . . . that's a problem," Woodson said.
The case is another ripple in the aftermath of the drunken-driving arrest of Alexandria Schools Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry, which newspapers have followed in detail for months.
On July 2, police say, Max Woodson went out with the son of School Board member Melissa Luby, who had been drinking with Perry the night she was arrested.
The teenagers bought two cartons of eggs and stole over to the Del Ray home of one of the chief critics of Perry and Luby, pelting the place with eggs in the darkness. Luby's son, James, later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor destruction of property. Max Woodson was found guilty of the same charge in August and ordered to pay a $250 fine or do 25 hours of community service.
The detective, who has seen Woodson's complaint, said Woodson claimed the investigating officer was unprofessional and recommended "remedial customer service training."
"She said something to the effect of, 'If she treats a City Council member this way, imagine how she treats an ordinary citizen,' " said Miller, who has been allowed to read, but not have a copy of, the complaint.
Miller is a trained hostage negotiator who in 2000 was awarded a medal of valor for disarming a mentally disturbed woman who had been waving butcher knives on a playground in Alexandria.
Miller said she noted in her own report that the Woodsons had been "abusive" toward her. She also asked that she be assigned a partner on the case before police issued an arrest warrant for Max Woodson. Detective Timothy Gleeson was added to the case, police said.
The Woodsons dispute that they were abusive to Miller. After his son was found guilty, Howard Woodson said he called the police department's investigations commander, Capt. Cleveland Spruill, to dispute Miller's use of "abusive" in her report, which he called "totally incorrect, totally false, in my estimation."
"If a citizen can't complain to police and follow up with additional information, then the police must be paranoid," Howard Woodson said. "The facts speak for themselves."
Last week, the city's police union wrote an angry letter to Joyce Woodson, charging that her use of city letterhead to file the complaint was an "abuse of your position in the city." The union promised to work for her defeat in the next council election.
"It appears to us to be harassment and intimidation of the officer," union President Sean McGowan said. "The officer has done nothing wrong, and we stand behind her."
Woodson said she had no response to what she termed the police union's "nasty" letter. She said she regretted that what she considered a private citizen complaint was leaked to the media and, in her mind, blown out of proportion.
"Am I supposed to surrender my civil liberties just because I'm a City Council member?" she asked. "I am entitled to file a confidential complaint."