Last week, officers in the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) 3rd District arrested fellow officer Vincent Andrews after he allegedly had sex with a prostitute. Although the officers eschewed the MPD tradition of covering for colleagues, the arrest hardly signals a new era of zero tolerance for police misconduct. Among other questions, it’s worth asking why none of those 3rd District officers protested when Andrews, a member of the prostitution task force, signed the woman out of her cellblock and took her for a joy ride.
“It’s just unfathomable to me that a single male officer can sign a female out of a cellblock and drive her anywhere,” says police watchdog Carl Rowan Jr.
What’s even more unfathomable, though, is how Andrews has managed to remain on the force despite a well-documented problem with women.
In 1994, a D.C. judge slapped Andrews with a restraining order after finding that he had assaulted his 24-year-old girlfriend in a domestic dispute (see “Battered Blue” 8/23/96). The incident stemmed from an argument over whether Andrews had been faithful to her, according to court records. Andrews was so angered by the dispute that he clamped his hands around the woman’s neck, beat her head against the metal bed frame in his room, and pummeled her face with his fist, according to the records.
She fought back and threatened to press charges, but Andrews scoffed at the notion that the cops would lay a hand on him, telling her, “I’m blue, baby. All cops stick together,” according to two of the woman’s lawyers. Then, according to court filings, Andrews threatened to make the young woman leave “by the window or by the door.”
The woman walked to a nearby pay phone and called a friend, who encouraged her to call the police. Then she flagged down a passing patrol car, which took her back to the Columbia Heights apartment where Andrews lived with his parents.
By the time she returned, however, other officers had already arrived on the scene. Andrews, then assigned to the 1st District, had called them and accused her of stealing something from the apartment. The girlfriend told her side of the story, and the officers departed, making no arrests and filing no reports of the incident. Three days later, the woman showed up in the Howard University Hospital emergency room still suffering from scalp contusions and head trauma, according to medical records in the court file.
When his girlfriend sought a restraining order against him, Andrews fought the petition, with help from 3rd District officers who stonewalled the woman’s lawyers. One officer, however, did come forward and not only testified about what had transpired at Andrews’ apartment, but also told the lawyers that a lieutenant had ordered officers not to arrest Andrews because he was subject to a pending investigation.
The department took no action against Andrews after the judge issued the restraining order. The 1996 Washington City Paper article describing Andrews’ assault on his girlfriend also failed to put a dent in his MPD career, despite the department’s own policy requiring disciplinary action against officers whose conduct could be construed as criminal.
Of course, MPD is famous for ignoring its own policiesespecially the ones that entail cracking down on officers. Last September, former MPD Chief Larry Soulsby pledged a new era of oversight. To comply with a federal law barring people convicted of domestic-violence offenses from possessing firearms, Soulsby vowed to rid the department of domestic abusers. The firearms law makes no exceptions for law enforcement officers.
Soulsby indicated that MPD would take the law a step further, by checking personnel records, police reports, and court files concerning officers accused of domestic abuse but not criminally charged, or whose criminal charges were dismissed.
Soulsby said those officers would be fired if the charges were valid.
At the time of Soulsby’s announcement, the Washington Post reported that 18 of 92 officers then on suspension pending disciplinary hearings had been accused of domestic violence, and the department said another 100 officers had been accused of abuse in the past. Yet no one currently at MPD can say how many officers were actually terminated as a result of the inquiry.
The human resources division, which was overseeing the effort, has been in turmoil for the past year. The office’s former director, Assistant Chief Sonya Proctor, abruptly resigned last week after being demoted by Chief Charles Ramsey. MPD spokesman Sgt. Joseph Gentile said the department is changing so fast that he didn’t know whom to contact on the matter. But Rowan, who has been following the department’s attempts at reform, says that the effort to purge domestic-violence offenders from the police force has gone nowhere. “They don’t take this stuff very seriously,” says Rowan. CP