- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday began placing 19 members of his department on desk duty and stripped them of their guns and badges, the first penalty assessed against officers who violated departmental policy by sending offensive computer messages.
The violators — 17 officers, one sergeant and one lieutenant — sent some of the most egregious messages, considered the "Level One" category. The e-mail messages were directed at members of the public, "could indicate civil rights violations" and "contained racially derogatory remarks," Chief Ramsey told reporters.
Police officials last night were in the process of informing the 19 violators of their "noncontact status." They must turn in their guns and badges and will be assigned to administrative tasks within their normal units.
Next, they will be charged with specific violations of the departments general orders, city code or federal law. The chief will decide on a level of punishment — ranging from a reprimand to termination — for each individual case. The accused can issue responses and appeal any punishment to the police trial board.
The violators were spread throughout the police districts except for the 7th District in Southeast. The 1st District, which covers all four quadrants in the central part of the city, had the most violators with 10. The offensive messages were concentrated during the evening and midnight tours.
Police did not release the identities, races or experience levels of the violators.
Assistant Chief Brian K. Jordan, who heads the Office of Professional Responsibility, said some of the messages included comments about physically attacking people.
The next step for investigators, Chief Jordan said, is to check previous citizen complaints against those officers.
Chief Ramsey said there could be more officers whose messages fall into the Level One category, but these 19 are the "most serious." Level 2 messages contain inappropriate remarks aimed at other members of the department. Level Three messages, the least serious, contain profanity.
Chief Ramsey reiterated that the actions of a few wayward officers do not represent those of the entire department. "This is not a reflection on the entire department," he said. "Dont paint them all with the same brush."
Of the 971,000 messages from the year 2000, 27,000 were flagged for containing at least one of 157 "key words." Half of those, it turns out, did not violate regulations, the chief said.
But he said he was particularly disappointed that two supervisory officials committed the offenses.
"I take it a lot harder when its a supervisor who ought to know better and should set an example," he said.
The D.C. police union has stated it condemns racism but emphasized officers must be afforded due process. The Metropolitan Police/Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee did not have a comment last night.
In March, police began an internal probe of officers who used mobile data terminals after an audit of 4 million messages found hundreds of them contained racist, sexist and homophobic language. They also contained slurs against women and other members of the department.
Black, white and Hispanic officers sent the inappropriate comments, officials said.
The Justice Departments civil rights division is conducting a separate probe into the messages.


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