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Patterson, Graham seek MPD inquiry
Widespread allegations center on civil rights breaches, misconduct
(Published April 24, 2000)
By KATHRYN SINZINGER
Widespread allegations of police misconduct and civil rights violations by authorities during the recent International Monetary Fund/World Bank protests have prompted two D.C. City Council members to separately call for a council probe of the Metropolitan Police Department’s performance.
Council members Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3, and Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, said they have serious questions about the preemptive nature of two April 15 incidents – the pre-rally raid and shutdown of protesters’ headquarters, and the apparent corralling and overnight detention of 600 protesters in what many have alleged was an attempt to prevent them from protesting the next day as the IMF and World Bank opened their annual spring meeting.
Both council members also expressed concern that D.C. police required residents and their houseguests to show identification to get to their homes after police cordoned off a security perimeter around MPD’s Third District station, south of Adams Morgan.
"Was it justified legally? That’s a question I would like to ask," said Graham, adding that his attitude toward the extensive security precautions that law enforcement authorities imposed – many of them in or near his ward – is "very much influenced by the number of (complaint) calls I’ve been getting."
"I’m not ready to say ‘You’ve done a great job’ or ‘You’ve done a terrible job,’" Graham said, alluding to a resolution in praise of Police Chief Charles Ramsey, his officers and other city agencies involved in the extensive operation that was introduced the day after the protests ended by Council Chairman Linda Cropp and Ward 4 Councilwoman Charlene Jarvis.
"I would like to have an airing of what happened here. I think it’s constructive to do that," he said. Graham emphasized that he is "pleased that things were not worse," such as the violence that occurred in Seattle when the
(See INQUIRY, page 8)
World Trade Organization met there, and he gave MPD "high marks" for staying in touch with him throughout the April 15-17 weekend regarding events that were occurring in or near Ward 1.
Police created a 90-block security area in downtown Washington while the IMF/World Bank spring meeting was held April 16-17 at their offices near George Washington University in the city’s West End neighborhood. In addition, police cordoned streets around police headquarters and city hall at Judiciary Square, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials closed the Judiciary Square and Farragut West Metro stations for both days at MPD’s request. While city government offices within the security perimeter remained open, citizens were required to sign in to gain entry to the buildings. Residents reported being required to show identification in order to get to their offices that were located within the security zones. Federal workers whose offices are located within the security areas were given liberal leave to take the day off on April 17.
In an April 17 letter to Cropp and At-large Councilman Harold Brazil, who chairs the council committee that oversees the police department, Patterson asked that an oversight hearing be convened "as soon as possible to probe issues" and assess the performance of MPD and other city agencies involved in the operation that handled the demonstrations. Patterson included a copy of an April 16 New York Times account of the April 15 raid and arrests, as well as a letter to Mayor Anthony A. Williams and control board Chairman Alice M. Rivlin that was written by two of her Ward 3 constituents to request an investigation of the incidents. She said she is compiling a separate list of her own concerns.
Mayor Williams, asked during an April 20 interview whether he planned an investigation of the widespread complaints that also included charges of police brutality and officers concealing their identities by not wearing their badges or wearing badges without numbers, seemed to indicate that he expects the police department to investigate at least some of the complaints made against them.
"The chief has stated, and I totally agree with him and I think he takes this seriously, that all complaints are going to be investigated immediately and taken seriously," the mayor said. "There are other government agencies that may get involved, so it will not be limited to the police department. But I think this police department has shown the ability to investigate itself and police itself well, actually."
Told later in the day of the mayor’s comments and asked if he intended to launch an investigation of complaints against some of his police officers, Chief Ramsey indicated otherwise.
"Unless there is overwhelming evidence that an officer physically abused someone, I intend to give them all medals, not discipline, because they did a good job," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said some police officers were not wearing their badges in a noticeable manner while facing off with protesters across street barricades as a matter of circumstance.
"They only get one badge and you had a situation where they were going from raincoats to jackets to shirtsleeves and there just wasn’t time to keep taking off your badge and putting it back on," the chief said. He said he instructed officers to "wear their badges – ‘Be proud of who you are.’"
Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator