So far this year, the city’s Office of Police Complaints has issued rulings on four cases of alleged police misconduct. In each case, the complaint czars ruled against the police. We’re running down the rulings, drawing what lessons they hold for working cops. Here’s the third in a series:
Summary of Complaint No. 05-0262: At about 7 p.m. on April 23, 2005, a man was approached by two plainclothes officers at the front entrance of his apartment building, Lazarus House at 2523 14th St. NW. The man, a building manager, was outside locking a gate when he first noticed the officers. The officers—one male and one female—wanted to get inside the building; the man asked to see a warrant and for the officers’ names and badge numbers. The officers, who were investigating a robbery and believed that a suspect resided at Lazarus House, refused. According to the report, the officers told him they could enter any building in D.C. except the White House.
Still, the man wasn’t buying it and again asked for names and badge numbers. One officer allegedly replied: “Move out of the way, you stupid motherfucker, before we lock you up.”
When the man unlocked the apartment building’s door and walked inside, the officers followed him into the building. When he tailed the officers through the lobby and again asked to see a warrant, the female cop allegedly turned around and “pointed her finger in [his] face and said ‘You better back off unless you want to go to jail.’”
At the hearing, one officer admitted that “she attempted to gain access to the building using the ruse that she was responding to a call from a tenant.” Both officers admitted that they threatened to arrest the complainant if he did not let them in the building. And they conceded that he was not required to let them inside the apartment building.
The female officer stated that she “may have used the word hell or shit.” Inside the building, she says, “I know I told him, get the hell away, back down. But hell and shit are my two famous words.”
Date of Ruling: Feb. 9
Allegations Sustained: “Harassment” and “Insulting, Demeaning, or Humiliating Language or Conduct”
Lesson: Officers need to learn how to apply for a warrant. And they need new famous words.