MPD Chief Cathy Lanier
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

D.C. Police Union Chief Kristopher Baumann has reviewed Ret. Judge Stanley Sporkin‘s report on the missing and/or destroyed evidence in the Pershing Park case. Baumann says he has concluded that there can be only one next step: The case should be referred to the Department of Justice.

“There needs to be an independent prosecutor set up,” Baumann says. There’s a host of potential criminal charges ranging from perjury to obstruction of justice. That’s just what we know….We don’t know that much. What we do know is terrible. What goes on past that is a question obviously someone needs to come in and tear this all apart.”

At issue is how did the Pershing Park running resume, a real-time accounting of police activity generated by the police department’s command center, disappear? And how did the radio transcripts concerning Pershing Park end up containing gaps?

Although the Sporkin Report failed to reach definitive conclusions, it suggested that the running resume may have been destroyed on purpose. And it called for an outside expert to examine the radio tapes. The report also documents conflicting statements from police officials about the evidence destruction.

“I gave it my best shot,” Sporkin tells City Desk. He explains that he did not feel comfortable making determinations of fact. That’s best left to a courtroom, he argued. “It has to be done in a court of law,” he says. “You cannot make determinations without the people having a right to counsel, and the right to cross-examine those witnesses that are giving information that are contrary to your interests.”

One way to address Sporkin’s concerns is to open up a criminal case with the feds, Baumann says. And he believes the Department of Justice, not the U.S. Attorney’s Office, should handle the matter.

“I think Department of Justice,” Baumann says. Because of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s close working relationship with the D.C. Police and the OAG, he says, it should not take the case. “This needs to be handled out of Main Justice.”

Requesting federal intervention isn’t in the police union chief’s standard arsenal of policy prescriptions. Historically, in fact, the police union has chafed at federal oversight into departmental affairs. In the late ’90s, former Chief Charles Ramsey sought out the Justice Department’s assistance in reviewing all police-involved shootings. Rank-and-file cops were furious with Ramsey over that decision.

In the case of Pershing Park, Baumann’s tough talk runs no risk of a backlash from the rank and file, in large part because the culprits of unwarranted arrests and the missing evidence are all top department brass. Indeed, it’s Baumann’s job to hound those folks.

The course of the Pershing Park case, says Baumann, goes beyond whether top police officials erred in a critical decision. He feels the whole drama has the potential to impact criminal cases. If the OAG and D.C. Police general counsel could so thoroughly screw up this case, how well are they handling evidence on the criminal docket?

“I think this is going to become a major crisis for a lot of agencies and a lot of people,” Baumann says.

The FOP chief joins Councilmember Mary Cheh in calling for federal authorities to look into Pershing Park.

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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