Last week, the Office of Police Complaints issued its annual report, which revealed a positive development: The stalemate between the D.C. Police Department and the agency appears to be over.
Since 2004, dozens of officers had refused to cooperate with the agency—mainly by not signing off on their statements—in investigations of citizen complaints ranging from inappropriate language to excessive force (“The Thin Blue Wall” 3/13/2007). But in April of last year, the report states, Chief Cathy Lanier issued directives that officers who did not participate in the OPC’s investigations would be disciplined.
In the first half of last year, 42 officers refused to comply. After Lanier’s order, only 6 cops refused. “We’re very pleased the way Chief Lanier responded to the issues, the stance she took,” says Thomas Sharp, OPC deputy director. “It’s important for us [and] the integrity of our process to interview every witness, including the officers. It was a problem that was expanding. It was continuing to grow. And she basically put an end to it.”
The union is still upset that officers can not prepare their own statements and are instead interviewed by OPC investigators. “I certainly wouldn’t [participate],” says union head Kristopher Baumann. Lanier says the problem got solved after the complaint procedure was explained and made more transparent to skeptical rank and file.
“Nobody is trying to trick anybody here,” Lanier says. “I don’t know what the union is upset about.”