Mayor Marion Barry is a self-confessed everything. Yes, he is a womanizer. Yes, he liked a good time. Yes, he did some drugs, and yes, if you come right down to it, he was not a good role model for the city's youth. He says nothing, though, about being a role model for another group of people: Washington's cops.
I am thinking of one cop in particular. His name is not important, but he called me back in 1981 after Barry ventured into Washington's old porn district, now blighted by redevelopment, and had himself a good time at a joint called "This Is It." I suppose you could call the place a strip joint, but that term is several garments shy of the truth. Women danced in their dimples.
Barry said he went to the place to pick up a campaign donation. The police had been going there for a different reason: it was under grand jury investigation. Cops knew the place as your run-of-the-mill sleazeball operation, but to Barry it was just another part of the city, a piece of his vast constituency, each and every part deserving of a mayoral visit. He said he knew nothing about the investigation, and, anyway, the allegations were politically inspired.
But there was yet another investigation behind that investigation -- or there should have been. The D.C. Police Department had received various allegations about Barry, cocaine and "This Is It": the mayor used cocaine at the club or was present when others used the drug. Although, unsubstantiated, they now ring as clear as truth itself. Barry, naturally enough, denied everything. Presumably, that was the disease talking.
My caller was appalled. Here he was trying to enforce the law, and there in plain sight was the mayor at a strip joint. Here he was battling drugs, and there was the mayor allegedly doing them. Here he was proud of being a cop, and there was the mayor, in essence, mocking him. My caller said what all the city was soon to find out: the mayor used drugs. It was well known.
Barry, drugs and slimy company is not a recent development. It's been a pattern for almost as long as he's been mayor. For all that time, every cop on the beat has known the truth. They not only talked about it in the station house, but they told friends as well.
Now there have been further allegations. At Barry's trial, Charles Lewis has implicated the mayor's security detail. He testified that an officer was present when Barry smoked marijuana on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands in 1986. He also said that while he and Barry were smoking crack inside a Virgin Islands hotel room during the same trip, the mayor told Lewis that he "shouldn't worry" about Barry's security detail.
So what have we here? At minimum, we have the strong stink of police corruption. We have the suggestion that police officers aided Barry in using drugs and avoiding arrest. We also have the suspicion that police officials knew of Barry's drug use but did nothing about it. In fact, one high-ranking policeman, Inspector Fred Raines, went to the Justice Department in 1982 with unsubstantiated allegations about the mayor. How had he gotten these allegations? A wiretap? An informer? Nothing of the sort. He had overhead his own officers talking about Barry and drugs.
Then-police chief Maurice Turner dealt immediately with Raines. He disciplined him for going directly to the feds. Earlier, Turner informed the mayor of the allegations and, in his own way, gave him a warning ticket: Watch your step, Marion. Turner is now the GOP candidate for mayor. You can look it up.
Police officers are only human. It has to be downright dispiriting to be fighting crime and corruption while you know -- or think you know -- that the mayor is cavorting with the very people you want to lock up. It has to be tough to be in the trenches of the war on drugs when, in effect, you know your commanding officer is using them. The cop on the beat was entitled to leap to a conclusion: the mayor was being protected by the police brass.
Maybe that wasn't the case. But there is reason to suspect that the personal corruption of the mayor managed to infect the city's police department. As for Turner, before he climbs upon a law-and-order mayoralty platform, he ought to answer some Howard Bakerish questions: What did he know, when did he know it -- and what, if anything, did he do about it? And as for the grand jury and the U.S. attorney, they ought to take a look at the D.C. Police Deparment. The cop who called me almost a decade ago sure would appreciate it.