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May 14, 1997

Police Ethics: An Oxymoron?

Dear Neighbors:

Police Ethics: An Oxymoron?

Police departments are a funny kind of bureaucracy. In most organizations, the higher up someone is, the greater their latitude. Not so with the police. It’s the officer on the beat who has the most discretion — deciding when to warn and when to cuff. We expect them to use their judgment and to use it well. For example, look at the messages we got on that expired license traffic stop. Much second guessing about how the officer should have behaved.

We want and expect good judgement and we want it done quickly. We especially want them to understand the importance of small differences. For example, knowing the difference between a meal discount for all cops and free meals only for those on the restaurant’s beat.

At the MPD, good street smarts may be in short supply. There are more than a few signs. For starts, there’s been, as always, Hiz Honor’s debasing the MPD’s integrity. Not just his abundant use of police personnel as gophers and heavies, but also his low regard for competence, professionalism, or technical achievement.

Two recent messes have involved many officers in at least questionable conduct. First, there was the "I can get it for you better than wholesale" mess. D. C. officers apparently lined up to buy computers they were told were leftovers from a federal seizure sale. Sales were 80% off retail. This was the original if it’s too good to be true story. It wasn’t .The stuff was hot.

Next, there’s the on-going saga of Mohinder I. Singh, tax preparer to the city’s finest. Several hundred DC officers (the number is uncertain) used Singh. According to the IRS, Singh rarely met a return that didn’t deserve a whopping refund. This mess is still unfolding. It was compounded by Eric Holder, US Attorney, and Reno Deputy wannabe.

Holder’s office asked IRS not to audit Singh’s MPD returns least hundreds of MPD witnesses became impeachable for false returns. If the Post is right, hundreds of prosecutions could be in jeopardy due to those officers who cut their returns too close.

Now, in none of this has the voice of the Mayor or the Chief been heard. Their silence compounds the department’s problems. It’s indicative of how this administration in general and the department in particular regard ethical violations. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

What’s needed? Don’t look to Hiz Honor. He thinks scruples is a breakfast cereal. The council could and should review the department’s policies and processes, but it’s hard to legislate judgement.

The control board wants to revamp the department. If it’s serious about improving police service, it needs to make high ethical behavior a departmental norm. It could start by bolstering internal affairs. It investigates DC government fraud as well as police misdeeds. It should concentrate on the MPD, with regular units handling internal city cases as any other. Most of all, we need a chief and others at the top who set good public examples. Has anyone asked the chief who did his tax return? Let’s hope it was Turbo Tax.


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Carl Bergman (send messages to dc.story or Jeffrey Itell at """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

Crestar Bank Clock Spawns New Children’s Story
Phil Shapiro

The tale of the Crestar bank clock, in Cleveland Park, has spawned a new children’s story. Where do you take a sick clock? To a clockerenarian, of course. <grin> Full story posted on the web at


Enforcement is not Harassment
John Whiteside

Sam Smith categorized the woman with an expired license who was arrested for driving through a stop light as harassment. Excuse me. This woman’s license was two months out of date. If it had expired the day before I might have felt sorry for her, but two months? And then she drives through a stop sign?

If I realize that I’ve left the house without my license, I drive extra carefully just to avoid such a situation-or go home and get it. She was arrested because she was flagrantly disregarding the law. The fact that she feels like a victim about this makes me glad she was tossed in a cell. If you’re going to break the law, don’t whine when you actually get caught. Laws apply to the middle class too, folks, not just poor people.

In the Post story she complained that it was so traumatic that her kid started crying. Maybe the kid was crying because she realized her mom was a deadbeat.


(Excerpts from The Progressive Review)
Sam Smith

City Council Votes To End Home Rule

As the Washington Post and Washington Times provided cover through major distortions of the impact of the White House plan for DC, the City Council voted with barely a whimper to end much of what remains of home rule. Only four councilmembers refused to go along with the charade that Clinton’s scheme was a rescue plan for DC-which would effectively make the city’s colonial status permanent, federalize much of the justice system and raid the city’s pension fund in order to help balance the federal budget. Further, according to an analysis by the junta’s own financial officer, Anthony Williams, the plan would net the city only $40 thousand over five years rather than the $800 million claimed by the Clintonistas.

The four who stood fast were Harold Brazil, Hilda Mason, Kevin Chavous and Frank Smith. Sandy Allen, apparently thinking she was explaining herself, said "It stinks and I don’t like it, but I’m voting for it." Harry Thomas, who generally protects his constituents, said, "We got our heads in the lions mouth now. We don’t have a choice." Marion Barry, who recently distinguished himself by coming out for the death penalty as soon as he got tipped to a poll showing majority support in the city, said of the White House plan, "We don’t have much choice. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place."

Of course, there is now little reason for any of these politicians to remain in office other than to collect their salaries. The pavlovian cowardice they have demonstrated of late could be easily written into a software program for a fraction of the cost.

Two Cities

Black and white Washington are deeply divided on such issues as the congressional junta. Most of the pain caused by the occupation of DC does not reach the quiet streets of Ward 3. Even those in four of the wealthiest zip codes in America who might be concerned get to hear little of what’s going on thanks to the rampant disinformation of the Washington Post.

To even suggest that the Post mythology might be a bit short on facts is risky these days. For example, our recent report on the true crime facts and on police harassment of citizens for minor offenses was reprinted in DC Story, a Internet bulletin board produced by the estimable Jeff Itell. It brought the west of the park Prig Patrol screaming out of its pews. Our statistics-culled from government sources incidentally — were called by one reader an "apologia for rampant crime." The guy was incensed that we had mentioned facts.

Meanwhile, the gap between the way people in the city think about these things widens. Not in thirty years have we seen such a split between white and black and rich and poor in Washington. It is sad, it is unnecessary and it is terribly dangerous.

How High The Rise?

If police harassment won’t wake up the good burghers of Ward Three, maybe trashing historical preservation and building 50-story buildings downtown will. Those under the illusion that Gingrich, Brimmer, Becton & Friends. are looking after the interests of the "good people" of Washington had better start paying closer attention. Part of the New Urban Order is a scheme subjecting no small portion of the city to the whims of an Economic Development Corporation. This is the $300 million economic development plan casually mentioned by the Post at the tail (if at all) of its stories about the White House plan.

Loose Lips in City Paper described it well, noting that "it will expedite much talked-about-but-seldom-seen economic development throughout the city by sweeping aside cumbersome barriers to development-like local zoning and historic preservation laws, as well as community opposition. . . The sound of clinking glasses at the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the DC Chamber of Commerce, and the Federal City Council could soon drown out the roar of rush-hour traffic.’ The scheme is the conception of three of the city’s leading Trojan Horses.

There’s OMB director Franklin Raines, who had the gall not to recuse himself from all DC matters after providing financial advice to both Mayors Kelly and Barry. He also defended the right of Fannie Mae not to pay the $300 million it should be coughing up in city taxes each year. There’s Barry’s marginal former city administrator, Carol Thomson Cole, and Jim Gibson, head of the Federal City Council’s DC Surrender Project who has never met a downtown welfare father he didn’t like nor a sentence he knew how to end. From this deep well of incompetence, conflict of interest and redundant verbiage has come a plan that will make community planning advocates and historic preservationists have all the clout of a black teenager driving late Saturday night on Bladensburg Road.

Some of the good folk of the planning and preservation world may think they are protected by laws, regulations, and precedents-not mention race and class. Forget it. Read the small print. The congressional occupation force has plenary powers. What you think no longer matters at all. For example, once the EDC is in place, there is the strong possibility that the next step will be removal of the height limit in the city. Then the real payoff for the congressional takeover can take place: the construction of a high-rise downtown.

The main purpose of the congressional occupation-to borrow Tom Stoppard’s comment about revolutions-is to change who has the capacity for self-indulgence. This capacity has been transferred from Marion Barry to Gingrich, Brimmer, Becton & Friends. Barry, at least, often followed the law. The new crowd doesn’t even have to bother.

The Federal Police

Eleanor Holmes Norton has come up with yet another godawful idea. She has introduced legislation that would allow members of some 30 federal police forces to take part in local enforcement. The plan would in effect create thirty different police policies for the city — involving officers with little knowledge, training or sympathy for DC or its residents. And if that’s not enough mischief for one month, Norton now says that Congress should consider abolishing the school board . .


Quality of life issues

I must have missed something in dc.story recently, because I hadn’t realized that enforcing traffic ordinances and other quality of life statutes was considered police harassment in the District! Well, give us more of it if we’ll even remotely approach what has occurred in New York City. I’ve just been there for a week, the first time since Giuliani became mayor, and the change is well-nigh miraculous.

I used to work across the street from Bryant Park, which was a slum-you couldn’t walk through the park w/o being assaulted or becoming a drug addict! Now it’s virtually Parisian-absolutely clean and beautiful. In fact, I spent all of my recent time on the West Side. From Soho to upper Central Park, it was CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN - no blowing trash, no messy tree boxes with broken bottles, no plastic bags up in trees, no bums or trash in doorways, no broken trees, no dog feces, no trash outside food shops; graffiti erased. I could go on.

New York may be "Brazil" in its ethnic mix now, but it’s a civilized place at last. The emphasis on the quality of life issues, considered as important as major crime fighting, has really had a psychological effect on everyone and seems to have calmed the city. It’s as if the citizens have made a compact among themselves and with the administration to take care of their fabulous island.


No More Mayor in D.C.
Ed T. Barron

Despite the polls showing Hizzoner Barry in disfavor with a large majority of the surveyed populace, the reality is that he will, if he runs again, very likely win another term. Why? Who will oppose him who is electable? Barry would certainly win any Democratic primary election. And what Republican could be elected in Washington? Unless Eleanor Holmes Norton were to challenge Barry in the Democratic primary election, Barry would waltz in once again. Since the chances of Norton running for mayor are slim and none, we must either face another four years with Barry or do what we should do - eliminate (or make ceremonial) the post of mayor.

If the City had a good City Manager with a functional City Council (like the one that is emerging, finally) we would not need a mayor. The Control Board should seek out qualified candidates for a city manager and get that person aboard to work with the other make things happen persons (like Becton and Williams) to get the city back on track. Congress will continue to hold back genuine support of district initiatives until Barry is gone. The Congress would surely pay more heed to Norton, if Barry were out of the picture and there were a City Manager in place.



Rollerblading Buddy

I’m looking for a Rollerblading partner, anytime in Woodley Park in the Omni Shoreham area.

Peggy Miles


New Sofa For Sale

I would like to sell my tuxedo-style Storehouse sleep sofa, which I have had for six months. (It’s too big for my living room.) It’s 7 feet long, 38 inches deep; there is a queen-size bed inside. The upholstery is an off-white 100% cotton with a subtle leaf pattern-very pretty and it’s been treated with fabric sealer and so resists dirt and stains. Also has arm covers.

I paid $1,700 and will consider all reasonable offers. Call 202-994-6943 for an appointment. Buyers must be able to transport the sofa.

Cynthia Harrison


House and Cat Sitter Needed

Needed: house- and cat-sitter for the period June 19-29. Attractive small, modern, fully-equipped house in upper NW DC one block from Military Road bus line, with 2 Burmese, strictly indoor, cats that need to be fed, petted, and have their litter box cleaned.

Alexander J. Morin



Two tickets available for Friends of the National Zoo gala with 100 restaurants to be held May 15. $115 each tickets. Best offer. Lak, 703-734-5476.

Lak Vohra



Buying one shouldn’t be so scary. Setting one up shouldn’t be so scary. Getting on the Internet shouldn’t be so scary.

Jeffrey Itell 202.244.4163


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