The District’s Office of Police Complaints is fed up with potty-mouthed MPD police officers and is urging Mayor Muriel Bowser and interim MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham to do something about it.
In a recent report issued by OPC’s five-member board, of the 945 complaints filed by District residents and visitors against MPD officers over the past four years, 190 contained one allegation or more that a MPD officer used profanity during the incident.
OPC also found that 639 complaints dealt with the officer’s misdemeanor or tone, and that there were 40 officers who had three or more language and conduct complaints filed against them. OPC notes the impact of such bad or “improper” behavior “often causes negative interactions between the community and police officers, which in turn decreases trust in the Department.”
It is commendable that District residents are exercising their duty to report the misconduct of those whose salaries we pay to keep the rest of us from being disobedient. Citizens must understand that a verbal assault is still an assault no matter whose mouth it comes from, and officers can and should be held accountable for such assaults, as well.
The OPC must recognize that of the 945 complaints filed, there are probably hundreds more cases where officers got away with using bad or offensive language towards residents.
The OPC is using what authority it has to change the culture inside of MPD in hopes of improving communications and building community relationships and trust. The board recommends that MPD emphasize the use of proper language and conduct to incoming officers and determine what kind of training will be effective for veteran officers. Lastly, all officers must be reminded of the rules that govern their responsibilities and conduct, which need to be updated, as well.
Using profanity may seem minor in the greater scheme of things, as the use of such language has become more commonplace. However, we agree with OPC that police officers are public servants who are held to a higher standard, and their conduct in already volatile situations can determine the outcome good or bad for all involved.