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In “Pointless Pursuit: Civilian Crime-Fighting Goes Awry” (8/15), Dave Jamieson recounts how police took a beating suspect into custody, gave him a short ride in a squad car, then let him go. In the days that followed, the boy repeatedly threatened the woman who had identified him. Many people will probably find the failure of the officers to do their job unbelievable, but it’s all too common. In fact, it’s happened to me three times.
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On the first occasion, a thug hit me in the face three or four times on 8th Street SE, two blocks south of Pennsylvania Avenue. I summoned the police from the 1st District’s Substation No. 1 (I live on Capitol Hill and am served by the 1st and the 5th Districts), but by the time they arrived, he was long gone. Far from being anxious to pursue my assailant, the two officers told me that I was drunk and had started the fight. When bystanders told them it wasn’t so, the officers threatened to arrest them. Eventually, though, they did take a report of the incident. Two nights later, the thug assaulted a man in front of the 7-Eleven. A half-dozen officers stood around, seemingly unsure of what to do. When I told them that the man was already the subject of an assault warrant, they ignored me. I persisted, however, and persuaded them to take him into custody. They put him in the car, but let him out around the corner.
On the second occasion, two youths (one armed with a knife) tried to rob me near Medlink Hospital, on C Street NE. I flagged down a 5th District squad car, and they caught one of the boys. Two days later, he and a friend were sitting in front of my apartment threatening me. Not long after that, they robbed me at gunpoint on the front steps of my building. When the police arrivedan hour laterI told them that one of the robbers was the boy who had been caught near Medlink Hospital. He was never arrested.
On the third occasion, a teenager knocked me down with a blow to the face and kicked me in the ribs half a dozen times. This occurred 30 feet from the escalator at the Eastern Market Metro station. I phoned the police at 1st District’s Substation No. 1, and two officers eventually came. I insisted that we look for the teenager and the five or six boys accompanying him. I saw one of them standing on 8th Street near the 7-Eleven and identified him. An officer spoke to him, and when he returned, said: “He says he saw you get beat up, but he doesn’t know the boy who hit you.” Later, I complained to their sergeant, who snarled: “What do you want us to do? Beat a confession out of him?”
I replied: “I want you to do your job.”