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Library public safety director submits resignation after officer is shot

Douglass Morency submitted his resignation after the killing of 25-year-old Maurica Manyan.

The Anacostia neighborhood library, in the 1800 block of Good Hope Road SE, closed after a library police officer was fatally shot Aug. 4 during a training exercise. (Clarence Williams/TWP)

The D.C. library’s public safety director submitted his resignation hours after a 25-year-old library police officer in training was shot during an exercise last week in Anacostia, a spokesman for the library system said Wednesday.

George Williams, the library spokesman, said officials received Douglass Morency’s resignation letter the evening of Aug. 4, the same day Maurica Manyan was shot and killed inside the Anacostia Neighborhood Library, on Good Hope Road SE.

Police have charged a retired D.C. police lieutenant, 58-year-old Jesse Porter, with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting. According to court documents, it occurred as cadets were preparing for a group picture at the end of training and, witnesses suggested, may have stemmed from a joke gone tragically wrong.

Williams said Morency, who earns $137,700 annually, is no longer running the day-to-day operations of the department, though his formal departure is set for Aug. 18. Morency did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Williams declined to provide Morency’s resignation letter, calling it a personnel document, and the precise reason for the departure was not clear. But Manyan’s shooting had raised questions about training and standards for a 36-member police force that attracts little attention. The department has six police cruisers, and officers patrol 26 library branches throughout D.C.

Williams said an interim public safety director has not been named and that supervisors are filling in.

Porter has been freed from custody and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 24. His attorney declined to comment last week; he did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday.

The libraries function as multipurpose gathering places — where children spend time after school, homeless people seek help from social workers, and residents get their taxes filed, their passports renewed and their free coronavirus tests from the city.

Retired D.C. police lieutenant charged in shooting of library officer

At the library system, Morency oversaw people called “special police officers,” whose arrest powers are generally limited to properties they are hired to protect — in this case, all library grounds. These officers have to meet requirements set by the D.C. police department’s Security Officers Management Branch, one of two city agencies that regulate licensed security guards.

Williams said the library public safety department’s training and development coordinator left in July, and officials decided to contract with Porter, who runs a private company called Porter Consulting and Expert Tactical Training, with an address in downtown Washington, according to online records.

Porter left the D.C. force in 2020 after about three decades. While a D.C. police officer, his resume claims, he worked on training at the academy, writing curriculum and reviewing use of force incidents to improve tactics and training.

Williams said “the library’s public safety department was familiar with Mr. Porter because of his training” with D.C. police. He said the Aug. 4 training session was the first time Porter’s company was hired to train the library police.

Library officials hired Porter’s company using what is called a city purchase card and paid him $1,550.

A document titled “contract agreement,” dated June 30 and provided to The Washington Post by the library’s general counsel, outlined specific training Porter agreed to provide. It listed classes in use of force, de-escalation, the use of extendible batons and handcuffing techniques. It asserted that the training company “shall not be responsible for injuries sustained in training.”

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which advises law enforcement agencies across the country on best practices, said no firearms should be in a room where training is being conducted.

Court documents say there were brightly colored plastic training handguns that do not fire in the training room, and they do not say why a live gun was present. Wexler said most departments forbid live guns at training sessions; officers entering the D.C. police training academy buildings where scenarios are acted out have to lock firearms in a box.

“The tragedy is these kinds of things have happened before and departments have learned,” Wexler said. “Leave guns outside the room.”

Williams said grief counselors have been made available to staff in person and remotely as colleagues and friends process the tragedy. But one email sent to all librarians and other staff discouraged employees from discussing the shooting or their dead colleague — even among themselves.

The email sent by Tanzi West-Barbour, the library’s director of marketing and communications, warned: “Conversations with each other or members of the public about the incident and/or the case or people involved can affect the investigation. Please don’t do it.”

Her email also warned against “engaging in conversations via social media,” specifically noting emoji such as “a thumbs-up, a heart, a crying emoji” could affect the criminal case.

The email did not sit well with some staff. One librarian, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the library’s directive that employees not speak to the press, said she was stunned by the initial request not to talk to her colleagues.

“How can you not talk about something that impacted the community and that happened at your workplace? Many of our co-workers at that branch at Anacostia, we can’t be neutral about this. ... I’m obviously talking about it,” she said.

She wanted a career investigating crime. Then she was fatally shot.

Efforts to reach West-Barbour on Wednesday were not successful. Williams, the library spokesman, said she was not in the office and referred questions about her email to Kevin McIntyre, general counsel for the library.

McIntyre said he did not want to stifle employees’ free speech about their colleague’s death but did have concerns about what they might say.

“The email went out to prevent employees from speaking on behalf of the agency or to appear that they’re speaking on behalf of the agency,” McIntyre said. “The concern was releasing inaccurate or unverified information that could harm the investigation of our dear colleague.”

McIntyre said emoji can be problematic. “I think they can be taken a number of different ways,” he said.

After The Post asked questions about the note, West-Barbour sent out a new email Wednesday night walking back her earlier statement.

She said employees were still not authorized to speak to the media without permission, but added, “We continue to encourage you to check-in with others and share memories of Officer Manyan.”

Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.