A D.C. police officer previously assigned to the White House motorcade is now on desk duty while police and the Secret Service investigate a report that the officer made threatening comments about first lady Michelle Obama.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier spoke out about the report on Friday, saying that either criminal or administrative charges are a possibility.
“If it’s determined that the statement that was made is not criminal in nature, it is still possible that in the administrative investigation that the statement was extremely unprofessional and conduct unbecoming of a police officer,” Chief Lanier said.
The police officer has not been publicly identified, but is described as a 17-year department veteran.
According to news reports, the officer made a comment during a conversation with other officers that he would shoot Mrs. Obama. Reports have suggested he either showed a picture of a gun on his cellphone or used a cellphone application to play the sound of a gun firing. Another officer overheard the remark and reported it to a superior.
The context surrounding the officer’s comments, first reported in The Washington Post, is unclear and still under investigation. Chief Lanier, addressing the serious nature of the comments and embarrassing uproar they have caused, noted that regardless of the context, it was not a laughing matter.
“There’s absolutely no place for jokes of a nature that could be perceived as threatening to the president, the first lady or anybody else. That’s not funny, and police officers get that,” she said.
Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan told the Associated Press the agency was aware of the report and was taking “appropriate follow-up steps.”
Typically, in the case of a threat against a member of the first family, the Secret Service interviews participants and witnesses and then decides how to proceed.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray told NewsChannel 8 on Friday the incident was under investigation but that “any allegation of that nature is serious.”
“There’s no room for jokes or frivolity when you’re dealing with the first family,” he said.
Last year, the unit that provides escorts came under fire after actor Charlie Sheen touted a high-speed ride he received on April 21 from Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia to the District.
The actor was running about an hour late for a scheduled performance at DAR Constitution Hall. Mr. Sheen tweeted a photograph indicating that the police vehicle accompanying his vehicle was speeding and using emergency lights.
Reports of more than a dozen other celebrity escorts kicked off a series of unclear comments on how police select deserving candidates for an escort.