“There is no better cop in this city,” said the woman on the other end of the phone. Her voice was small but emphatic. She was trying to hype up Captain Robert Atcheson.
I was writing a story on Atcheson. The cop had recently been promoted. And a number of sources were upset. The D.C. Police Department came close to firing Atcheson a few years ago for alleged racism, bad language, conduct unbecoming, and other unfriendly things. He ended up serving a 30 day suspension for basically saying fuck a lot. But this woman wanted me to know that he wasn’t a bad cop at all. In fact, he was the best cop in the city.
I’m all for fair and balanced. So I asked if I could quote her and use her name.
I could use her quote, she said. But she refused to reveal her identity to me.
The next day I got another call from an Atcheson supporter. This time it was his lawyer Gene Smith. We talked—and argued—for a long time over the merits of my reporting. She defended her client admirably.
And then I realized something. She sounded a lot like my anonymous caller. So I confronted her.
She didn’t deny being the other Atcheson supporter. I told her that as his lawyer her quote was suddenly not so credible. Of course she would say he’s the Best Cop Ever. It’s her job.
Advice to lawyers defending cops: Play It Straight.