Along with AG Peter Nickles‘ statement and Designated Fall Guy Tom Koger‘s statement regarding evidence issues in a Pershing Park case, top D.C. Police Department lawyers also submitted statements to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan (pictured).
In his declaration, Ronald B. Harris, a D.C. Police Department lawyer, makes it clear that he had prepared early on for litigation stemming from the mass arrests which took place on September 27, 2002. In October of that year, he stated that he contacted then-Captain James Crane, who headed up the police’s communications unit, and requested the radio communications related to Pershing Park. He states:
“I realized the radio communications would be important to restain after hearing witnesses testify at a District of Columbia Council Judiciary Committee hearing about police misconduct. The communication tapes would be needed for a possible department investigation called for by the committee chairperson and the committee’s own investigation that the committee chairperson stated would be conducted into the department’s handling of mass demonstrations.”
The upshot: Harris knew very early on that those arrests were controversial and evidence needed to be collected preserved.
Harris goes on to stress that there were proceedures in place for such internal evidence gathering:
“At that time the normal practice of the Office of the General Counsel and the communications unit was for an attorney or staff member to make a request for radio communications in relation to an incident and by virtue of the request also preserve the ‘master’ tape for litigation purposes. Thus, when I made this request I believed that the master recording tape would be preserved indefinitely.”
Harris released twenty tapes to the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation. He also states that he provided copies of the materials to Thomas Koger at the Office of the Attorney General. “Mr. Koger requested the materials in anticipation of discovery in the pending civil actions,” Harris states.
Those tapes would be found to have missing gaps that directly corresponded with the moments surrounding the actual mass arrests of the 400 citizens in Pershing Park. Harris suggests he did not know about the missing gaps until Crane admitted as much during his deposition in December 2007. Harris states:
“Following the deposition of now-Commander James Crane in December 2007, OAG advised me that plaintiffs’ counsel asserted that one or more of the communications tapes were defective in some respect.”
1) Is Harris admitting that he never listened to the tapes when he first received them years ago? Did Koger or anyone else at the OAG listen to the tapes?
2) Is this a common practice among District lawyers to turn over evidence they have not properly reviewed?
3) How did Harris not know there were problems with the tapes before Crane’s deposition? Plaintiffs lawyers had argued well before his deposition that the tapes had problems.
Harris also tries to explain the missing running resume from the Pershing Park arrests. The running resume is the most basic of police documents; it is a compilation of all police activities and is created by officials at the command center. It amounts to a real-time narrative of everything from police orders to when units took their lunch breaks.
In the first year or so after the Pershing Park arrests—-when Koger and the D.C. Council were preparing for litigation and an investigation—-Harris states that the running resume “was not included” in the materials he turned over “as I had not located it.”
After getting a subpoena issued in September 2003 from the D.C. Council which asked for the running resume, Harris writes: “I started an exhaustive search for the document.”
Harris goes on to state: “My search encompassed making repeated requests to various officials who I believed would have a copy of the running resume or who knew where a copy would be obtained. My efforts in locating the resume were not successful.”
Harris does not state whether he ordered an investigation into how the running resume went missing.
Harris then declares: “During my involvement as the liaison to the OAG attorneys assigned to the instant cases, I have never seen a copy of the JOCC running resume….Nor do I know of any person who claims to have seen this document other than Sgt. Doug Jones.”
You can read what Sgt. Doug Jones stated about the running resume here. Jones stated in a deposition that the production of the running resume was standard operating proceedure—-at least 12 copies were made as well as two electronic backups.
*photo courtesy of U.S. District Court.