On a damp morning two weeks ago, a red pickup climbed over the curb near the intersection of 17th and U Streets NW and backed onto a stretch of grass just beyond the sidewalk. The truck’s wide tires chewed through the moist turf, carving out a rut worthy of a backwoods trail. There the truck stood for hours.
What a prime target for pink slips: illegal parking and defacing public property. But the city’s ubiquitous meter maids didn’t touch it.
That’s because the truck’s owner is a 3rd District Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer, one of many cops who have turned a blocklong patch of grass into a mud pit for the officers’ vehicles of choice: sports utility vehicles, pickups, and sleek sports cars.
“It’s really gotten out of hand,” says Margie
Randall, a neighbor who lives in the area. “They park all over the place; there is no respect for the law whatsoever.”
Randall is just one of over a dozen residents who want their neighborhood police officers to enforce the law, not trample it.
“We like the police officers in our neighborhood, but only when they are abiding by the same rules that ordinary citizens are forced to abide by,” Randall says. “When they’re tearing up our neighborhood, most of us would rather not have them here.”
Neighbors in this quiet area off of U Street say that police parking hasn’t always been a problem. Third District officers, they say, once tucked their cars tidily into the station’s parking lot, which empties onto U Street.
“They used to be much more respectful of the neighborhood,” notes Sarah Coats, a resident who lives across the street from the station. “Now it’s simply getting out of hand.”
James Coleman, an Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commissioner, says the grassy area near the station looks worse with every souped-up hot rod that rolls in. “Its a real eyesore,” says Coleman, noting that the officers’ cars are producing ruts, beaten-down grass, and a tangible sense of lawlessness adjacent to the police barracks.
“Up to this point, the officers have shown some concern,” Coleman says. “But if nothing happens to change the situation, the officers haven’t helped very much,” he adds.
But Lt. Mark Beach, who supervises the area in question, says he has heard only recently from “a few” neighbors regarding the parking situation and didn’t think until now that it was a major problem.
Nonetheless, Beach concedes that parking on public space is illegalan offense that people without badges get fined and towed for every day. When pressed on why 3rd District officers feel entitled to free parking, Beach blames his recently fired superior, Winfred Stanley. According to Beach, Stanley authorized officers to park on the grass after finding that the station’s parking lot couldn’t accommodate all their personal cars. Over the years, the parking garage has filled up with impounded cars snatched from neighborhood streets.
“[Stanley’s] feeling was that his officers needed a place to park,” Beach says. “While I am the boss of the local area, I am not the commander of the precinct.”
Joseph Adamany, the 3rd District’s new commander, passes the buck with similar ease: “When I first saw the cars parking there, I thought it was crazy, but I didn’t interfere because I wasn’t the commander,” says Adamany. “I understand the community concerns. If I lived in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t want the cars parked up on the sidewalk.”
Now that Adamany has taken charge, he has handed down a new policy: no more parking on the grass, period. Check thatparking on the grass is fine until the station clears out more garage spaces for personal cars. “Nothing’s going to change right away,” says Adamany.
Until then, don’t look for any grass to grow underneath the feet of the 3rd District’s uniformed parking scofflaws.CP