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Never have I clutched a Post-It note so tightly. The square piece of yellow paper has the digits 081628 scrawled across it. It seems innocent enough, but those numbers, I’ve been told, could do some damage. According to my sources, 081628 is the number of a crime report detailing misconduct by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) interim chief Sonya Proctor. Last year, say two MPD officers, Proctor’s gun was stolen after she left it unattended in her squad car. Cops get fired for less.
At Room 3075 in MPD’s Indiana Avenue NW headquarters, I hand the number to a clerk and tell him the subject of the report is Proctor; he shrugs and disappears into the file room. But Sgt. Regina Smith, hunched at her desk, perks up. “We should just have that file out on display,” she barks. “You’re the third person this week that’s come in asking for that report. There’s nothing in it. Her gun didn’t get stolen.”
Smith struts to the counter and snaps, “I think you should mind your own business.” That’s good advice: The report shows no missing gunjust a stolen purse, plus credit cards, checkbook holder, garage door opener, and Bell Atlantic flip phone.
While public safety advocates all over the District are clamoring for an outsider to replace fallen Chief Larry Soulsby, rank-and-file officers are attempting their own housecleaning. Instead of waiting for Proctor to discredit herselfthe usual course for MPD chiefsbeat cops are doing the work for her, spreading a variety of damaging rumors in the hope that at least one of them sticks. The rumors range from the feloniousthat the interim chief shot her husband, MPD Lt. Joseph Freemanto the bizarrethat she heads a lesbian police ring.
In 1995, an officer in MPD’s 3rd District interrupted a routine roll call with a loud fart. A few colleagues snickered, and that was the end of it. Or so he thought. But the fart had caught the attention of Lt. Alberto Jova, who wrote up a reprimand. Proctor, who was then the 3rd District commander, signed off on the disciplinary action.
Although no oneincluding Jovais too sure what rule farting violates, Proctor is known for cracking down on officers no matter how small the infraction. Capt. Jesse Villarreal, who served under her in the 3rd District, acknowledges that Proctor has always been her own boss. “She knows where she’s going,” he explains. “You follow or get off the train. We do our job or find another job.” Those who have chosen the latter are multiplying at a rapid clip since Proctor was named interim chief this past November.
Robert Deso, an attorney who represents the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), reports that Proctor fires an average of 13 officers per month, up from last year’s average of four. Detective Frank Tracy, FOP’s chairman-elect, says she has overruled MPD disciplinary panels in at least five caseseach time demanding a harsher penalty for officer misfeasance. In one telling case, Proctor fired Sgt. Nacal A. Lawrence for getting into a fight in a basketball game at the police academy; the disciplinary review board had recommended a mere demotion.
Her tough-minded MO has sent the ranks into culture shock. Soulsby fired only those who threatened to overtake him as chief, and he shmoozed with his underlings on the street, at police functions, and in local pubs.
Proctor doesn’t slap anyone’s back. Recently retired Commander Lou Hennessy worked with Proctor for nearly 25 years but admits he barely knows her. They shared a meal only once, when they were in Virginia on a search warrant. “Our meal consisted of driving up to the window at Burger King,” says Hennessy. “We [ate] the hamburgers in the car, and then we went right back to what we were doing.”
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Whether it’s her impersonal management style or her disciplinary record, Proctor has managed to alienate the force, says MPD watcher Carl Rowan Jr. “People feel stronger about her than they do about Soulsby, and I really find that shocking,” he explains. “The level of personal animosity is much higher for her than it is for Soulsby. People saw Soulsby as an amiable dunce. He stayed out of people’s way.”
Where there are lots of disaffected workers, there are lots of plots to take down the boss. Although officers who can’t take the heat have talked about quitting or going back to college, they’ve talked mostly about rumors. And to put the rumors in circulation, the officers operate under a strict protocol: Never give out your name, use pay phones and coffee shops to deliver tips, and heed not the truth.
The husband-shooting allegations surfaced in the first week of Proctor’s tenure as interim chief. Proctor and Freeman, the story goes, got into a big fight at their Prince George’s County home, and she reportedly grabbed her gun and fired at Freeman. Problem is, none of rumor’s authors have any idea when the alleged shooting took place. “I don’t know how we could confirm it [without a date],” says Prince George’s County police spokesperson Tora Coates.
Disgruntled officers say they don’t require much confirmation for another story about Proctor: that she’s a lesbian. Her butch haircut, they say, is all the evidence they need. And they say she likes to surround herself with gay women, whom they decline to identify. Never mind that she’s been married for years. In the same breath, they allege that Proctor regularly smoked marijuana when she was a cadet at the police academy. Hennessy, who was with her at the academy, insists she never lit up.
The gossip covers every aspect of Proctor’s tenure, from her personal life to MPD politics. The interim chief, according to a rumor now making the rounds, was kowtowing to Mayor Marion Barry when she fired three MPD commanders in February. Among the ousted was 3rd District Commander Winfred Stanley, who helped orchestrate the Vista Hotel sting on Barry. Barry couldn’t be reached for comment, and Stanley doesn’t believe any of it. “I think people are trying to come up with some sort of explanation,” he says. “They’re pulling straws. She hasn’t offered an explanation. I don’t have the slightest idea of what it was. My gut tells me she wanted to make a bold move to make people think she is a different candidate for chief.”
These days, the rumormongers are fingering Proctor for steering a contract to a Southeast company to tow abandoned vehicles found in the 3rd District. In a prolonged ramble, one Proctor detractor says she has a financial interest in the company, Youngin’s Towing and Automotive Services Inc., and argues that the company’s owner may even be related to the interim chief. He also says that hiring a towing company based outside the 3rd District
Youngin’s is located on Montana Avenue SE
violates city procurement regulations. James Gee, the owner of Youngin’s, acknowledges his business with the 3rd District but not with Proctor. “Who’s Proctor?” he asks. “I’ve never seen her before in my life.”
The story of Proctor’s stolen gun has landed me in the back seat of a police cruiser on a rainy Thursday evening. I am talking with two MPD officers, my leaks. “Betcha startin’ to feel like Woodward,” says one. The two juggle coffee, cigarettes, and their buzzing walkie-talkies but don’t say much.
We’re waiting for another source, who knows something more about the incident. We just wait and keep a lookout. Then we cruise around town and wait some more.
After cruising around for a half-hour, we hook up with the source and drive to a secluded spot; the officers don’t want to be spotted by any Proctor cronies. The mood is tense, and the source wants to remain anonymous, even to me. He says he’ll deny everything if he’s confronted and threatens to get out of the car if I push for his name.
Within a few minutes, the two cops get called away to a robbery in their district and have to get back to work. The source and I get dropped off, and we head to my car in a dark side street to wrap up the case.
We pile into my Buick, where we get down to the facts. It turns out Proctor’s gun was never stolen. But there’s still a scandal, he says: A thief broke into Proctor’s car and stole her cap badge and department IDjuicy stuff. Ten officers went out to look for the stolen loot, but the perp turned in the badge and ID before the search party could track him down. Since the thief was a juvenile, my source explains, there’s no publicly available record of the incident. Oh yeahwas this before or after she secretly formed the lesbian police unit?
As he recounts the story, the officer stares directly ahead, watchful for Proctor cronies assigned to keeping the lid on the interim chief’s wrongdoing. He doesn’t dare look my way. After 10 minutes of huddling, the source says he has to go. But he offers me another rumor. “You hear about Proctor shooting her husband in P.G. County?” he asks, getting out of the car. “That one is definitely true.”CP