- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

A D.C. police officer drove off with a million-dollar bomb-disposal truck without permission Saturday and went to Baltimore before returning the vehicle yesterday, police officials told The Washington Times.

The officer identified by police sources as James T. "Jay" Effler has been in trouble before, most recently for an incident in which he was accused of being intoxicated while in his cruiser near Capitol Hill.

The officer walked into the compound for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit in Southwest, flashed his badge and left in a new, $1 million bomb-containment truck.

The officer drove the truck perhaps as far as Baltimore.

"The last time they saw him, he was heading up the parkway on his way to Baltimore," a police official said. The officer returned the truck yesterday in good condition.

The officer was not arrested, but by one unofficial account, he was suspended from duty.

Said another colleague: Officer Effler "is kind of a crazy guy … who couldn't be controlled."

Police officials acknowledged the incident yesterday, but would offer neither details nor identification of the officer.

"An officer is alleged to have taken a vehicle without authorization," said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a spokesman for the department. "The matter is under review, and based upon the findings, appropriate action will be taken against the officer, up to and including termination."

The head of the D.C. police union also acknowledged that such an incident occurred without identifying the officer. Sgt. Gerald G. Neill said the union's position was that the officer's actions didn't show an intent to steal because he returned the truck.

Sgt. Neill said the officer's actions may have been "a cry for help" and that the department should help him.

Officer Effler joined the department in 1989. Rushing to strengthen the force quickly, police abbreviated training sessions and conducted few or no background checks on officer candidates for the 1989 and 1990 classes. Many of the officers indicted in recent years on charges ranging from robbery to murder joined the department in those years.

Eighteen citizen complaints were filed against Officer Effler by 1995, including accusations that he had used racial epithets, profanity and excessive force, The Washington Post reported last year.

None of those complaints was sustained by the Civilian Complaint Review Board or the police department. Officer Effler also was named in three brutality lawsuits filed against the city, The Post reported. Those lawsuits were settled for amounts ranging from $10,400 to $31,000.

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