It was a Friday afternoon, Jan. 27, and tiny DeSales Street NW, which runs alongside the Mayflower Hotel from Connecticut Avenue to 17th Street NW, was looking like a motorist's obstacle course.
A white Mercedes idled illegally in a no-parking area, keeping company with a street full of other illegally parked cars. Just down the block-long, one-way street, a blue van was double-parked.
Entering this scene, Neal Johnson pulled his taxicab up to the side entrance of the Mayflower Hotel. He double-parked a few feet behind the van. He picked up passengers bound for Dulles Airport and was loading their luggage into the trunk when a policeman appeared and started writing out tickets.
The tickets were for loitering, double-parking, solicitation of passengers and failure to keep a taxicab manifest. They all had Neal Johnson's name on them.
"He walked past all those other (illegally parked) cars just to get to me," an angry Johnson complained afterward. He found the incident all the more galling because the police officer, Walter Gilmore, also works part-time for the Mayflower, Johnson said he is kept from getting the lucrative airport fares at the Mayflower because he won't tip the hotel doormen.
Gilmore's employment arrangements with the Mayflower -- and with Raleigh's Department Store just up Connecticut Avenue -- are being investigated by police supervisors following a complaint by Johnson and inquiries by two reporters who witnessed the ticketing.
The incident has provoked charges by Johnson of police harrasment and raised questions about Gilmore's observance of city rules governing outside employment by D.C. police officers.
Police regulations prohibit any officer from taking an outside job as a security guard, private investigator, night watchman or any other type of work that would require serving in a private law enforcement capacity.
In addition, every police officer--no matter what job he takes outside the force -- must have permission from his police district supervisor.
Gilmore, who denies harassing the cab driver, told a reporter that his duties at the Mayflower and Raleigh's involve maintenance work and that he has the approval to hold both jobs.
A store manager at Raleigh's and two coworkers at the Mayflower all say, however, Gilmore was hired for security work. Gilmore's supervisor in the third district, Deputy Chief Charles Rinaldi, said he approved the Raleigh's job, which he thought was maintenance work, but did not know about Gilmore's Mayflower job.
"The matter is under investigation, and some form of disciplinary action will be taken." Rinaldi said Monday. In their meeting last Friday, Rinaldi said, Gilmore acknowledged working at the Mayflower and "was going to ask permission"' to hold the job.
Gilmore, who has walked a beat in the vicinity of the busy downtown corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW for about seven years, said he patrols about 150 business a day in an eight-block area and checks on banks, credit unions, churches and offices.
"I've been on the beat quite a few years and just started working at these places relatively recently," said Gilmore. He said Raleigh's and the Mayflower don't get any special treatment just because he sometimes works for them.
"(As a policeman) I keep an eye on things anyway," he said. "Because I work here doesn't make it any different."
Denying he had especially targeted the cab driver, Gilmore said: "You can go anywhere in the city and find cars parked in violation. I can only write so many tickets a day."
Still, Cabbie Johnson claims that he and his cab get a lion's share of Gilmore's ticket-writing attentions.
"He gives me a ticket every time he sees me," Johnson complained. "This is the second time he's taken a Dulles fare from me, and today he's given me more tickets than I earned in fares." Gilmore detained Johnson about 45 minutes later he stopped him.
The four passengers in Johnson's cab eventually took a Dulles airport service shuttle bus, which pulled up and double-parked on De Sales Street while Gilmore was detaining Johnson. One passenger said he took the shuttlebus after Gilmore told him it would be "a long time" before Johnson would be allowed to continue his airport journey.
Gilmore -- who said he had a very good police record and would continue to have a very good police record -- called for a back-up cruiser during the ticketing process. He is normally a foot patrolman.
Johnson said the cruiser was called after police told him he was resisting arrest, although the cab passengers said he behaved courteously throughout his dealing with the police.
Gilmore said he "had the scout car come down to assist me because it was so cold." He sat in the cruiser during much of the 45 minutes that Johnson's cab was detained.
According to Johnson, the Mayflower Hotel doormen and the shuttle bus service have separate tipping arrangements. Cab drivers tip the doorment to get better fares, Johnson said, and the shuttle bus service tips the hotel for its guest business.
Gilmore, the airport shuttle service and the doormen all deny any knowledge of such tipping arrangements.
Gilmore said his outside jobs bring in less than $5,000 total in addition to his base police pay of $18,000. He said he does "handyman" chores, inspects fire extinguishers and "checks to see if everyone is on their posts at the Mayflower.
The Mayflower's chief of security said Gilmore reports directly to him. But, when questioned, he denied the police officer did security work. Other employes interviewed at the hotel, however, described Gilmore as a plainclothes security guard who frequently fills in for other security employes when they are sick.
At Raleigh's, the store manager called Gilmore "my security man," although the manager later described[WORDS ELLIGIBLE] the job in more general terms. He said Gilmore has worked part-time there for about two years, taking shifts on Thursday evenings, Saturdays and sometimes on late weekday afternoons.
Washington has long prohibited its police officers from holding outside security-related work, according to Gary Hankins an information officer for the police department. He said the D.C. government wants to reduce the potential for liability since by law, even an off-duty officer must carry a gun and be ready to enforce the law while he is in the city.
Other advocates of that prohibition have suggested it also averts possible conflict-of-interest situations, Hankins said, but he noted that in Prince George's County -- where police are allowed to hold security jobs and are even encouraged to wear their uniforms -- there is a feeling that the effectiveness of the force has been increased.
But as far as Johnson is concerned, the only thing that has increased because of Gilmore's Mayflower job is the cab driver's hacking difficulties. Johnson's former passengers are mystified by it all.
"We were unrelated individuals who happened to take that cab," said Tisa Hanson, a transportation specialist from Los Angeles. "We should have the option to choose whether we want to go by cab or shuttle bus."
The passengers -- who were charged $4.50 each by the airport bus compared to $4.75 each charged by the cab drivers -- all left their cards with Johnson in case he needed them as witnesses.
"The cab ride was a little bit more, but he was leaving immediately and de'd already been waiting for the bus 10 or 15 minutes," said John Pacinda, a Houston businessman. He observed at the time "that the policeman's car and the airport limousine were blocking as much of the street as the cab."
What "stuck" in another passenger's mind during the ticketing incident was the car he saw going the wrong way on DeSales Street. The driver waved to officer Gilmore and passed by unchallenged.
Gilmore said he did not see the errant vehicle.