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Take-Home Cars and Obeying the Law
February 8, 1998




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The following E-mail message was sent to DCWatch by a member of the Metropolitan Police Department on active duty. The writer's name and any identifying information have been omitted.

Date: Sun, 8 Feb 1998 12:49:07 EST
To: dorothy@dcwatch.com
Subject: D.C. Police Content

I have been following the stories in the Washington Times over the past week on the D.C. police officials being allowed to take police vehicles to their homes outside the city. The stories indicate that Interim Chief Sonya Proctor ignored the federal law banning ALL city employees from taking city vehicles to their homes outside the city. That federal law appeared to be so simple, that anyone with at least a high school education should have had no problem understanding it. Yet, the police chief granted exemptions to her officials and, apparently, to herself (although the newspaper did not mention that she too resides in Maryland and was driving her city vehicle home also).

The stories have also reported that the executive director of the control board has said that he told the chief that only Congress, not the chief nor the control board, can grant the exemptions. It is unclear when she was told this by the executive director. Notwithstanding, wouldn't it be reasonable to believe that a person heading the police force in the nation's capital could have understood that if Congress passed a bill, and the President signed the bill, then only Congress and the President could overturn the provisions of that bill. Since Congress went on recess shortly after passing the bill, then it should have been obvious that they did not revise the bill to include exemptions for the police chief and her selected officials. Further, even if the police chief did not understand this simple bill, wouldn't it have been reasonable to ask the police department's salaried lawyers for a legal opinion? I couldn't imagine a government lawyer that would be stupid enough to advise the police chief to go forward with the decision to grant exemptions since the chief had already issued a December 15, 1997, memorandum that stated there were no exceptions to the law.

According to the February 7, 1998, Washington Times, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans is quoted as saying "This was all one big mistake." This is the same man who constantly supported the former police chief. Violations of the law are always a mistake. The question that has not been answered is why police chief issued exemptions after having issuing a memorandum specifically stating that there were no exceptions to the law. Under what authority did she issue the exemptions?

I have been employed by the Metropolitan Police Department for . . . years and I know for a fact that those members who received those exemptions never stopped driving their vehicles to their homes in Maryland and Virginia until Thursday, February 5, 1998, after the violation had been reported in the

This kind of open defiance of federal law tarnishes every member of the department at a time when the actions of former-Lieutenant Jeffrey Stowe has already tarnished our reputations. I hope that you and your organization will continue to keep an eye on the police department and that you will demand answers to this situation on behalf of the citizens and the employees of the department who are trying to serve the citizens in a fair and impartial manner.

The violation of that federal statute just gives the impression that members of the police department are ABOVE THE LAW and will do whatever we want to do. How would the police department have handled a report that workers from other D.C. agencies were taking cars to their homes outside the city in violation of the federal law? We would have investigated the allegations through statements and surveillance and we would send the matter to the United States Attorney for criminal prosecution. Shouldn't the police be held to at least the same standards as other D.C. employees? Perhaps we can just sum up the violations as "one big mistake". No reply is expected. I'm just passing these thoughts along to you. I'm glad that D.C. Watch is watching. It appears that some of the elected officials are not watching.

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