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Councilmember Kathleen Patterson
Letter to Mayor Anthony Williams on Committee of the Judiciary's investigation of the
Metropolitan Police Department's handling of demonstrations

March 15, 2004




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Committee of the Judiciary's report, draft

March 15, 2004

Mayor Anthony A. Williams
The John Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20004

Dear Mayor Williams:

I write to ask what actions you are taking in the wake of the findings by the Council Committee on the Judiciary at the conclusion of its 9-month investigation of the Metropolitan Police Department and the agency’s handling of demonstrations in the District of Columbia over the last four years. Your counsel, Corporation Counsel, and City Administrator have received copies of the report. I enclose a copy.

Specifically, I would appreciate hearing at the earliest possible opportunity what action you are taking in response to these conclusive findings:

  • The department’s insupportable exoneration of Investigator Patrick Cumba for use of force during the January 20, 2001, inaugural parade, and failures of the Department more generally in holding officers accountable for misconduct. The MPD’s internal investigation of the incident -- in which the officer aggressively and indiscriminately used pepper spray on individuals, as captured in videotape in possession of the Committee as well as MPD -- found the use of a chemical agent to have been appropriate. I note that the Public Broadcasting Service program, NOW with Bill Moyers, aired this videotape nationally on March 5, 2004. The Committee recommends that the incident be reinvestigated by an agency external to the MPD, and suggests the Justice Department’s Inspector General.
  • Deployment of undercover officers to infiltrate political organizations in the absence of policy guidance. Chief Ramsey conceded in testimony Decemer 18, 2003, that the Department needs policy guidelines in this area but it is the understanding of the Committee that such assignments continue to be made in the absence of policy guidelines.
  • Misrepresentations on the public record, contained in Council Committee video and/or audiotape, by Chief Charles Ramsey and Assistant Chief Alfred Broadbent. Specifically, Chief Ramsey testified in public session on February 23, 2003, responding "no" to the question of whether he was part of the decision to effect mass arrests at Pershing Park on Sept. 27, 2002, and responding "yes" to the same question in sworn testimony December 18, 2003. At your direction, Assistant Chief Peter Newsham was reprimanded for the arrests made by MPD on September 27, 2002 on the assumption that he was the command official responsible for the arrests. The letter of reprimand states the reprimand is for "the failure to give verbal warnings" as outlined in the Metropolitan Police Department manual on mass demonstrations. In addition, both Chief Ramsey and Chief Broadbent denied in sworn testimony that protesters were "directed" into Pershing Park, also contradicted by other sworn testimony and by after-action reports by officials. Chief Broadbent repeatedly testified on December 17, 2003, that the department "does not infiltrate" political organizations, a statement contradicted by sworn depositions by former undercover officers, cited in the report.
  • Violations by the Department of current policies concerning demonstrations contained in the Standard Operating Procedures for Mass Demonstrations, Response to Civil Disturbances, and Prisoner Processing. Your administration determined that Chief Newsham violated these guidelines, prompting the reprimand cited above. The report outlines additional violations including failure to issue warnings prior to arrests at Vermont Avenue and K Streets NW as well as at Pershing Park on September 27, 2002.

Thank you for your consideration and I would appreciate a timely response.

Sincerely yours,
Kathy Patterson

cc: Robert Bobb, City Administrator
Robert Spagnoletti, Corporation Counsel
Leonard Becker, Counsel to the Mayor

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