Dear PoP – Unfortunate encounter with MPD

Photos from PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoP,

Last night, Sunday, I went to the bus station at midnight to pick up my roommate who was coming in late. I got to the Greyhound bus station behind Union Station, and pulled off to the side of the street. I called her to find out where she was, only to find out she goofed and told me the wrong bus station. (She came in on MegaBus at Metro Center.) I was trying to calm her down and tell her it wasn’t a big deal and I would be there in a few minutes. I put the car in drive and began to hang up my phone, when a cop car pulled in behind me. I didn’t move, and the cop car flashed his lights, then proceeded to pull along side me. The cop then slid to his passenger seat, rolled down his window and knocked on my window. I rolled down my window, and the officer said (and I quote) ” Get off the F***ing phone.” I said, ” I’m sorry Officer, I’m a little turned around and I was trying to figure out where I need to go.”

I’m not sure what disturbs me more, the fact that the police officer dropped the F bomb on me, didn’t get out of his car, or when I admitted I was a little lost, he didn’t even ask if I needed help. And the area I was in is not well populated, and not that safe late at night. I also have to admit I look like I’m about 18 when I’m actually 26.

I can’t help but think this officer violated his duties of an officer of the law a few times during my brief encounter. I was just wondering if anyone else has ever had this type of experience before of an member of the MPD.”

I agree that this is completely unacceptable behavior. I know this is not a life or death example but small examples like this, I think, can lead to larger problems. I will make sure that this note is forwarded to the commander of this police district. Have others experienced behavior like this before?

118 Comment

  • Less whining more driving please. Sure the cop could have been nicer, but how does one put a car in drive and “begin to hang up” a cell phone? This is not typically a process with a beginning, middle and end, but rather a single click.

    • If you are reading this while you are driving, hang up and drive! (that also means put the phone away…which includes reading)

    • I’ve been in my fair share of cop cars and you can’t really “slide” across into the passanger seat. There are shotguns…laptops…cbs…and other cop crap in the way. Also you are in DC grow up.

    • I’ve seen an MPD officer yell a drive-by obscenity at a litterer, and I’ve also seen an MPD officer use his PA system to tell another driver to “pull over to the right, stupid!”

      While I can understand the sentiment, it’s a symptom of a serious lack of discipline. A cop who demonstrates such public contempt of professional standards is probably doing a whole lot of other things that are “less than professional.”

      We trust cops to testify truthfully in court, and we believe them when it’s their word against a mere citizen’s. We trust them with the power of arrest. We empower them with the power of arrest, and broad authority to use deadly force. We trust them not to abuse their power.

      If the police don’t act professionally, it give us reason to believe our trust in them is misplaced.

  • Sorry, I have to disagree. People talking on the phone while driving risk killing or injuring other drivers and pedestrians. What would you prefer: Getting one f-bomb from a cop; getting a ticket and a fine; or crashing your car because you’re not paying attention? I’d say that this driver should thank her (I assume it’s a her) lucky stars and, next time, hang up the phone first.

    • I meant that I disagree with PoP and the whiny emailer, not with the comment above mine, which is right on.

  • Thats DC police in a nutshell…why are you even surprised

  • Wait a second!!! Are you saying this guy actually had to move over to the passenger seat in order to roll down his window?? What was he driving?…a ’78 Plymouth?? AND, in what police car built in the last 10 years can you actually move from the front seat to the passenger seat in anyway. There are like 3 computers and a shot gun up there.

  • so you got sworn at instead of getting a ticket? OH NO

  • There was this one time last December. I was playing in the snow with my friends…

  • “Handheld Cell Phones: 7 states (Calif., Conn., Md., N.J., N.Y., Ore. and Wash.), D.C. and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
    Except for Maryland, all laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.”

    While he was being a dick about it, you were wrong…get off the phone or turn the engine off.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    I agree that talking on the phone is very dangerous. But I also agree with the original OP that the officer should have exited his vehicle. That’s sorta standard operating procedure. Like I said, this isn’t the biggest flaw in the world but often small things like this lead to bigger ones. And the folks who are always so quick to throw out “whiny emailer” well that’s getting old. Whether you agree or disagree items like this are often still worthy of discussion in my opinion.

    • Can you explain what you mean by “bigger problems?” I don’t understand how one rude officer, who wouldn’t go way out of his way to get this person a mile across town leads leads to bigger problems.

      And with all due respect, characterizing the original e-mailer as a whiny e-mailer is fair game when you (presumably with her permission) post this publicly.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        It’s a good question. By bigger problems I mean when an officer flouts procedure then other procedure could be flouted. I don’t know exactly what but maybe like securing a crime scene, talking to witnesses in a timely manner. I’m just speculating. Taking shortcuts can lead to more shortcuts. But people in positions of authority especially police officers have an obligation to follow procedures. I guess it’s a bit of slippery slope argument (which I normally hate).

        • Acting like an inconsiderate asshole to someone who was likely a very minimal danger to anyone can be a symptom of any number of psychological issues. It can also lead to carelessness, aggressiveness, and unfair actions in other areas of this individuals official duties.

          • Sorry. If you’re giving away the “inconsiderate [*]” tag, you should at least consider hanging it on the person who, though lost, was also driving & talking on the phone.

            captcha: Mrs oblivion

    • Not to be contrary, but I think people are discussing it, and I think the consensus is that this person is being petty and whiny and admits him/herself that he/she was breaking the law.

    • ah

      Usually police shortcuts involve not enforcing the law. Here he was enforcing a law that needs better enforcement. No need for the f-bomb, but this seemed like an oral warning rather than a ticket. Efficient policing.

  • I’m astonished and delighted that a DCPD officer bothered to approach someone on their cell phone in the car, though I admit his behavior was uncalled for and you shouldn’t be reprimanded for talking on the phone while pulled over to the side of the road, regardless of your age.

  • Seriously!? OK, I can understand how some folks who are sensitive could be offended by the “F” word, but how about a little perspective?

    If this is all that the original e-mail writer has to be “disturbed” about in D.C., then she/he is living one hell of a charmed life.

  • Wow guys … I agree that driving/talking is very, very bad and dangerous and all that jazz but give this person a break! Just because we expect this kind of behavior from law enforcement officers (who are tasked to SERVE and PROTECT, by the way, main emphasis on the first one in this context) doesn’t mean that we need to accept it. We should, alternately, take acception to it and demand more from people who have the dual responsibilities of protecting us from crime and arresting those who commit it (and are also by definition above the law by virtue of their ability to enforce it). Is everyone here also totally okay with ‘street justice’ beat downs when some young kid mouths off? Um, I’m not.

    And this person pulled over, had a very brief conversation, then hung up as she (I also assume) pulled away. Not exactly the crime of the century here …

    • Is it really even dangerous? People talked on the phone while driving for a long time before someone turned the DC police into a surrogate mommy. And people still do it all over the country in places with citizens who don’t let the government piss on them like we do.

  • The cop could have been nicer about it, sure, but good for him for actually making a stab at enforcing a law that is routinely ignored, and rarely punished.

    Sure, MPD releases stats from time to time that show they’re handing out a good number of tickets for driving while phoning, but it’s done absolutely nothing to stop people from doing it.

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever been pulled over for talking on your cell while driving.

  • You’re right. He should not have used the F bomb. He should have given you the $100.00 ticket. Another 20 something with entitlement issues. Count your blessings and start taking ownership of your actions!

    • I’m confused by the anger here… the OP clearly states that he/she pulled over to make the call.

      • Because there is a tide of self righteous indignation at people breaking minor traffic laws. These people who are so indignant have maybe broken the very same laws themselves, OR have taken this to be their champion issue on which they are right on and are hypocritical because they either break the speed limit, dont use their turn signal, drive aggressively, dont completely stop at stop signs, blow through stop signs on their bikes, dont use hand signals on their bikes, jaywalk, are generally careless pedestrians, etc.

        Since I’ve seen so few perfect drivers, bikers, and walkers – I assure you 99% of the people who bitch about traffic, walking, biking are gigantic hypocrites.

  • did anyone read that they were parked while making the call!!!!! that is allowed!!!

    • “I put the car in drive and began to hang up my phone, when a cop car pulled in behind me.”

      A reasonable inference from this is that the writer still was on the phone with the car in drive and moving. That is not allowed.

      • Another reasonable inference is that they weren’t moving yet, since the writer said “I didn’t move.”

        The commenters on this post are about as pleasant as a bag of dicks. A cop was rude for no good reason.

        If any citizen dropped the F bomb on a cop, they’d be downtown in five minutes. These guys are supposed to help out citizens. Instead, this guy intimidated someone who probably wasn’t even breaking a law. Totally on their side.

        It is unfortunate that, apparently, we have come to expect our cops to be jerks so much that this seems normal and fine to so many people.

        • i have seen many citizens drop many f bombs on many cops and not get sent “downtown.” you should get out more.

          • You have seen many citizens drop many f bombs on cops? And nothing happened? Are you kidding me?

            this This guy got arrested for saying (not even to the cop directly) that he hates police.

            This guy got arrested for disorderly conduct for flipping off a cop. He sued and won.

            These kids got smacked down for calling the cop “dude.” Imagine dropping the f. bomb on officer riviera!

            In short, you are delusional.

          • AGREE with Jamie. Seriously? Who do you see question a cop in this city and get away with it? A week ago I saw a kid make a snide remark about a cop TO HIS FRIEND, not the cop, and quietly too, and the cop practically broke his face on the pavement and arrested him.
            I see a hella lot more of that type of behavior than any protecting and serving, round my parts.

        • “The commenters on this post are about as pleasant as a bag of dicks. A cop was rude for no good reason.”


        • Actually, in DC you are allowed to swear at cops all you want, its not illegal unless you imply violence. The thuglets on my street regularly taunt officers with statements about their mothers cock sucking and such, and the police just have to sit there and take it. In most of the rest of the country, you of course cannot treat police that way. Welcome to DC.

  • Pulling over and using your phone is not a violation of this law. You can in fact pull over, after having determined you’re too wasted to drive your car and that’s a defense to OUI/DUI. This should not have resulted in the ticket (which is potentially why he didn’t give one). If a ticket had been issued, I’d have been happy to represent this person in court and cross examine this a$$hole on the stand. I would be my pleasure to waste his time for a day so maybe he’d think twice about being a jerk for no reason the next he encounters a member of the public.

    • This reads suspiciously like a laypersons (or law student’s) mistaken concept of what happens during cross examination. Best of luck, Perry Mason.

      Anyway, I hope you don’t actually handle drunk driving cases. It’d be pretty embarrassing to show up in court with that defense, only to have the AUSA point out that DC law refers to operating or having physical control over a vehicle, not necessarily driving. Keys in the ignition? You’re in physical control.

      The anti-cell phone law is different — it only refers to operating a vehicle. However, are you going to argue with a straight face that pulling over isn’t operating a vehicle? What exactly are you doing if not operating the vehicle? Seriously though — If you ever get a case like this please let us know when the hearing is, some of us might want to stop by the courtroom for a little entertainment.

      That aside, the cop could have been nicer about it.

      • Atkinson. You might want to read it.

        • Atkinson? The Maryland case? Really?

          You’re trying to cite a Maryland case, which deals with a statute that doesn’t have the phrase “physical control” anywhere in it. It only deals with driving and attempting to drive.

          We’ve veered way off topic here, but this only shows that your original advice sucks.

          Study harder, ’cause you’re one pissed off client away from a malpractice suit.

  • As much as I disagree with the police state if you have a problem with the police get their badge number or their car number and make a report if you don’t like it. Just because the police don’t treat people like snowflakes is not a new thing.

    • I think I need to use a different name when posting here, so as not to get confused with you. Cheers.

  • DC cops ought to be required to have foul mouths. They routinely patrol some of the worst neighborhoods in the western world and yeah, they’re often a little jaded. I think a lot of us who live in NW and other nicer neighborhoods don’t often appreciate just how difficult being a DC cop actually is. Saying “get the f*** of the phone” seems like it’s not that big of a deal.

    As for the policy aspect of this — should the cop have said something, given you a ticket, helped, etc. — I suspect that if you had asked him for help, he would have offered it.

    I respectfully believe that this incident isn’t worth getting upset over or writing letters to people about. I’ve had mixed experiences with DC cops, but I respect them all immensely and think they’re some of the most honorable people in the city. We ought to give them a pass every once in a while, especially for incidents as harmless as this one.

  • I got pulled over by MPD on the only occasion in my life that I’ve talked on the phone while driving. No joke.

    I hate, hate, hate people who talk on the phone while driving. On one occasion a few years ago I got a series of calls from the same overseas number (a colleague) in a ten minute period while I was driving. Concerned that it might be an emergency, I returned the call while stopped at a stoplight. The entirety of the conversation was “hi, is it urgent? I’m driving? No? Ok, I’ll call you back.” And the entire conversation took place while I was stopped at a red light.

    So, I’m apparently terribly unlucky, but MPD does at least on occasion enforce this, even if it isn’t nearly as often as I’d like.

  • Some of you here are just happy to take whatever the F is thrown at you instead of demanding good service. Assuming you work, you pay for these services. Why would you not be annoyed when someone in official capacity drops the F bomb in relation to you? Demand respect, make all in the service industry accountable for their actions, then perhaps they will be more respectful of their work and the people they serve.

  • Yes. A couple of weeks ago a police officer told me to “Get back on the f^@&ing sidewalk!” during a parade as I approached to ask a question, then proceeded to lightly push me on the arm and threaten to arrest me once I had taken a couple of steps back (but was not yet, admittedly, on the sidewalk).

    I would have asked for his badge number, except I’m not sure my parents wanted to spend their weekend visit bailing me out of jail.

  • I join the majority here. This is just a whiny email — what do you want, law enforcement with a cherry on top? The cop did his job. Probably he could have skipped the f-bomb, but everything else seems fine to me. Just look at the objective facts from this writer: He/she is in car, in gear, on phone. Cop flashes lights (established legitimacy as an officer of the law) and tells emailer to stop breaking the law. Everybody moves on. Seems like effective, sensible, and metered policing to me.

    And really the only reason I take the time to write this is the ridiculous suggestion that the cop “violated his duties of an officer of the law a few times during my brief encounter.” Really? Just how would that be? Unless the writer asked for directions, why is there an expectation the cop should give them? Unless the writer thinks being let off with a warning was a breach of duty or abuse of authority, why should the cop have exited his vehicle to administer a verbal warning (btw, ever think the cop didn’t want to be out of his car at midnight by the bus station for his own safety??)? Unless the writer thinks the law about driving and being on the phone is unjust, why shouldn’t the cop have said something, when the writer admits the fundamental facts to establish a violation of the law?

    For the record, I got called out by the cops once for driving while I was on the phone. Was going about 10 mph on a residential sidestreet in Tenleytown, trying to find where I was, and a cop pulled up beside me and forcefully said I could either “hang up now or pay a $50 ticket.” It sort of surprised me that he took the time to do that, and frankly I was surprised that I was noticed, but he was 100% within his right to do it.

  • if he found the driver in violation he was obligated to stop the vehicle, exit his vehicle, and issue a citation. If there was no violation, he was obligated to STFU.

  • I’m tempted to yell “get off the f-ing phone” each time I’m nearly run over by a driver talking on one.

    You should be thankful he didn’t issue you a ticket, which you completely deserved.

  • Pretty shocked at all the vitriol towards the OP. She clearly indicated she was stopped while talking on the phone. She was hanging up and preparing to pull away from the curb (yes, to all of you men out there unable to undertake more than one task at the same time, i know, sounds crazy, but it is actually possible!) The cop acted like an aggressive ass. People in positions of power should be extra sensitive to NOT acting aggressive when unnecessary. Geez.

    • Wow, sexist much? No genders, to my knowledge, have been positively identified. Sounds like you’re making some seriously prejudicial assumptions.

      • i originally wrote my comment as he/she, but once i saw that other posters had gone with the “she,” i ran with it.

        maybe a little biased, but it was based on:
        -female roommate
        -concern about safety in neighborhood
        -looking 18 when 26

        in the words of chris rock:
        “if a woman says she’s 20, and looks like she’s 16…she’s 12. if a woman says she’s 26, and *looks* 26…she’s damn near 40.”

    • My vitriol comes from two places:
      (1) The writer offers no facts to establish anything other than a violation of the law (phone to ear while car in drive, even if proceeded by being in park and at the end of the coversation) but proceeds glibly to call into question the cop’s commitment to his duty.

      (2) In a no-harm, no-foul incident for the writer, there apparently was a sufficient sense of entitlement and/or indignation to voice the complaint on a fairly widely read blog. (And, to be candid, knowing that this is a 26 year-old probably only fuels the fire for those of us who’ve graduated from the stage in life that everything is a cause for outrage, because, you know, we never do anything wrong.)

  • i would also wonder what the proportion is of cops being sworn at vs. cops swearing at people.

  • I am also guessing that there is more to the story…if a cop pulls up next to you and puts his window down, wouldn’t you put your window down right away? I bet that there was some conscious “ingoring” the fact that a cop has pulled up along side of you…to cause him to slide over and have to KNOCK on your window to get your attention.

    Consider yourself lucky, you should have gotten a ticket.

    (captcha: Nations police) ha!

  • As Judge Judy once said, and I am paraphrasing, “Too many people are worried about tone.”

    I vote for the Broken Window Policy – A crime is a crime.

    Now we have a police officer doing his job and this is a good thing right? Unless you were affended by the “F” word or maybe his tone was inconsiderate.

    I am sure dope dealers and child molesters say the same thing… “It was a just little bag!” … “Oh she is 15 years old.”

    The minute your car lights went from parking to drive – you were driving.

  • DC police are some of the worst in the nation. We should except nothing but the worst from them and then if they do respond with something more, then we should be shocked

  • if that cop gets out of the car, he’s going to write you a ticket. he did the poster a favor by trying to show her how irresponsible she was acting.

    the f bomb was likely provided to provide emphasis as to “are you joking? you’re breaking the law directly in front of a cop?”

    this is indeed a whiny emailer.

    i DO find it interesting that this cop seemed to possess the mythical “Long Arm of the Law.” sliding across a center console that probably has a laptop and knocking out the car onto another window. wow. that’s a long arm.

  • Well, You should get off the fucking phone. It’s against DC law. Can’t tell you how many tourists and morons have almost run into me in the District from being on the phone…had a light to light fight with a guy over that once.

    And I used to live over there about a block away – it’s not that shifty. It’s all redone. It’s tourist season. Cops, like residents, have little patience. Just say “okay” and move on. “Fuck” is just a word like any other, kids.

    Just sayin’.

  • Clearly the it’s a fair trade. A cop can curse at you and then you should have to sit there and take it as long as you don’t get a ticket. A cop can shove someone around and curse at them and it’s fine as long as your parents don’t have to bail you out? What else can cops demand or how else can cops treat someone just so that person doesn’t have to face fines or arrest? At what point doesn’t that become an abuse of authority?

    A cop chose to be a cop, they chose to serve the public. I’m thankful that they did, but that doesn’t mean they get to be verbally abusiveor abuse the power that their uniform provides. If the emailer had cursed at him, maybe a cop would be within his rights to curse back. My hope is that cops are better than dropping down to that level.

  • STFU and get off the phone before you put your car in drive.

    Quit your whining and follow the law. You’re lucky you didn’t get a ticket.


    A motorcyclist that hates people who drive while on the phone.

  • get a life you people.

  • One day, every cop I saw driving around DC, something like 6-8 in one hour, was on their cell phones while driving. Sometimes I’d like to yell at the cops and say, get out of your f’in car and do some good community policing, and btw, get off the f’in cell phone while you’re driving.

    Reminds me of Hon. Jack Evans, he drives while talking all the time. Keep your eyes out for him and yell!

    Recently I’ve started slowing down to nearly zero when I look into the rear view mirror and see folks texting. Un believable that folks can’t put down their iphones for like 10 minutes, addiction to social media I guess.

  • I’ve already posted multiple times, but just one last thought: PoP, if you still feel compelled to send the email to the police commander, I’d suggest you also share the multiple comments here in support of the officer, too.

  • F==k or f==king is part of every day language north of Camden. It’s after midnight, he’s bored, this guy could have gotten a moving violation. Everyone survives, democracy endures.

  • Most of the time cops can’t be bothered to look at you much less yell at you, so it seems strange that you were some completely innocent bystander and some cop just lost his mind.

    You’re complaining about getting yelled at? Wow. That’s some positive-reinforcement, ego boosting childhood you had there.

  • Here’s my experience with a cop abusing their power. A few months ago I went over to hang out with some friends in Adams Morgan. I parked along 17th street just north of Euclid. The only spot available was close to an alley entrance, so I pulled as far back as I could until I was within an inch or two of the bumper of the car behind me. I left the car and came back about two hours later.

    As I was turning the ignition and putting the car into drive, a cop pulled up, shined her light on the back of my car, and asked in an antagonistic voice, “Why’d you park so close to that car?” I fairly politely answered that I had done so to avoid blocking the alley entrance. At that point she became increasingly hostile, asserting that I had hit and damaged the car behind me, which I had not. She shined her light on the car behind me (of course never bothering to get out of her car) and insisted that there was a dent or scratch on the bumper that I had caused. I bent down and looked closely and honestly couldn’t see anything. Of course, even if there had been a scratch, it would have been unreasonable to assume that I had caused it, since in DC most cars have a number of dings on their bumpers.

    Anyway, the cop continued berating me for about 15 minutes, pulling my record, running my plate, checking all of my documentation. For about 5 minutes she gave me shit because I hadn’t gone to the DMV and updated my DC driver’s license with a new address when I moved a few months prior. At this point I was getting frustrated, so I sarcastically said “What’s the big deal – like I’m going to waste a day of my life at the DMV to get my address updated.” Of course she didn’t like that, which led to about 5 more minutes of harrassment. All this while, she simply sat in her cop car blocking traffic in both directions on the narrow street. About 15 cars were now stuck on either side of her, and the drivers were becoming increasingly frustrated (this was Adams Morgan on a Friday night after all). Finally, she relented and let me go, and said that if she got a call from the owner of the other car about the nonexistent dent I had supposedly caused, she would find me.

    The most frustrating thing is that, about 30 seconds before I got into my car, I had walked past several members of the usual violent, drug-dealing crew that hangs out at the corner of 17th and Euclid. Surely this cop’s time would have been better spent dealing with that, or any other number of real crimes happening elsewhere in DC at that time, instead of blocking traffic for no reason. I hate to jump to conclusions, but the cop’s extremely irrational actions leave me little doubt that her hostility towards me was heavily influenced by the fact that she was a black female and I was a white male. Unfortunately I didn’t get her badge or car number – by the time I was released I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

    Anyway, has anyone else experienced something like this? Was I in anyway out of line?

    • I think many of us have encountered MPD officers with shitty attitudes, if that makes you feel any better.

      Were you out of line? I’d say not entirely, but there are a few caution flags. Did you leave enough room for the person behind you to get out? Did you really find it necessary to argue with the cop when it was clear that you were in her sights? And finally, you really should update your address with the DMV. You might be able to do it online to save time, and it is the law after all.

    • I’d bet all the money in my pocket this was her friend/family member’s car and they called her knowing she was on duty.

    • did that “crew” try to deal you drugs? or assault you? why else would you assume they were violent drug dealers?

      there’s a lot going on here. and playing the race card here isn’t going to win you a lot of anonymous internet friends.

      • I lived around the corner from 17 and Euclid for two years, during which time there were several shootings at that corner, and I personally witnessed several drug deals by the very people I saw that night. That’s why I assumed they were violent drug dealers.

      • nikkei… Who played the race card here?

    • All other things aside, you are supposed to update your license when you move to DC. You live here. Pay up.

    • FYI, You can now change your DL address online. It costs seven bucks, and takes about 10 minutes of your time – you have to scan a proof of residency doc.

      I was really excited when I discovered that.

      • Thanks jcm! @Mark, I do have a DC license, I just hadn’t updated it when I moved within DC.

      • Or you could wait ’till it’s expired and pay $120 like I did.

        Yes, that female cop was an asshole. The cops here are pretty resentful. I suppose dealing with degenerates and entitled folks will do that.

        OP~yes that cop was an asshole, but it’s not like he dragged you out of the car, handcuffed you and searched your car like he would do for someone of another phenotype in a “real” bad neighborhood.

    • ah

      Why didn’t you tell her the other car pulled up close to you?

      Anyway, you should leave more than two inches to the car behind you when they park. How are they going to get out? You’re supposed to leave 3 feet. 18 DCMR 2405.3(i). She could have popped you for $20.

  • Shortly after I moved to DC I had a cop drop an F-bomb on me. I had committed at least three traffic violations at one intersection and was sure I was about to get a major ticket, but then the cop just screamed “Get the F***ing Dog Off Your Lap!” So I moved my 12 pound dog and continued on my way.

    My passenger and I still laugh about it.

  • Yikes. I work a block from the bus station and at night, it’s not the friendliest area. Personally, when a stranger swears at me, I find it not only insulting and tacky, but also borderline combative. The fact that a cop did? That’s unprofessional on a million levels. Sure, she was breaking a law, but really? REALLY? I’m a customer service type person that deals w/wackos all the time, if I started saying “Get your f-ing s$#t together” to them I’d be out of a job.

  • I’m always amazed by grown ups who still like to complain about cops. It’s one thing when you’re 17 and you think the world revolves around your every need and you have a bad encounter with the cops. It’s totally ridiculous.

    Anytime anyone thinks they can do a better job at keeping my family safe from kids with semi automatic weapons, feel free to apply to become a police officer and change the organization from within.

  • So did you stay off the fucking phone? Bet you’ve talked on it while driving a dozen times since this happened.

  • I was driving down 14th St with a handheld on my ear and a cop directing traffic yelled “Get off the phone!” at me. I was embarassed, not upset at the cop. He could have been more polite but I was in the wrong. And I could have ended up with a ticket.
    It’s not clear from the post whether this person was driving while on the phone. If he or she was, he or she should consider his or herself lucky that all he or she got was yelled at.

  • “I put the car in drive and began to hang up my phone”

    What a weasel word – “began”! The classic way to make it seem like you weren’t holding your ear to your phone. How long does to “begin” to hang up your phone? Please. Your phone was to your ear and you were in drive – law broken. The officer couldn’t tell whether you had just started your conversation or were just finishing.

    When other laws are broken you can expect to get cursed at, ticketed, or arrested. I think a “scared straight” attitude is sometimes in order. Have I done it? Absolutely, we all have.

    The problem is less that the officer was abrasive (unfortunate though it is), but more that the non-ticketed, unpunished e-mailer felt so victimized that they had to write to complain about it. Sorry!

  • Wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen a DC cop on a personal cell phone while driving.

  • Here’s an example of an alternative way the cop could have handled the situation.

    A couple years ago I was visiting a friend that lived near the Pentagon (yes, Arlington). It’s an area I’m not really familiar with. I left her house late, maybe 2am, there weren’t many cars on the streets, it was dark, I didn’t really exactly how to get back to the city and I accidently turned into a one way street. And lucky me, there were cops on that street sitting in their car. I was asked to get out of my car, they ran my tags/license, they had me walk straight line, and do other tests to make sure I wasn’t drunk. And then they escorted me in my car back to the road I was looking for so I didn’t get lost again. Was that so hard? Technically I “broke the law” when I accidently turned down a one-way but rather than screaming at me aggresively, they HELPED me. Guess that’s why it costs so much to live in Arlington.

  • If the OP was pulled over, he/she wasn’t breaking the law. But the OP says they had put the car into drive. Also, I don’t get why he/she wouldn’t have hung up their phone when the cop pulled up along side and clearly had them in their (the cop’s) sights.

    “I put the car in drive and began to hang up my phone.” — what process is there to hanging up a cell phone? You either flip it shut or press a button, right?

    That said, there was no need to drop an f bomb. I’m OK with that when dealing with an aggressive suspect, but this sounded like a confused driver. If the OP was sitting there with the car in drive without actually driving anywhere, at night, on the phone, I don’t see any call for getting angry.

    Those of you who say, “She deserved a ticket,” it’s not clear to me, from this post, that the OP was moving and talking in her vehicle at the same time.

  • “I’m not sure what disturbs me more…”—I’ll tell you what disturbs ME more: You didn’t get a ticket.

    Now grow up and stop whining. 100% behind the cops here.

  • I delivered pizza in upper NW when I was 19 and often sped dangerously around town. Once, at a street light, a cop who had seen me speeding, rolled his window down and said “slow that truck down boy.” (he was black. I am white). I said “ok” and thanked god he didn’t give me a ticket. I deserved a ticket and he would have been justified cursing at me. I knew I had been wrong and knew that I got off lucky so I chilled out my speeding after that.

  • I actually love DC cops. They have perspective unlike anywhere else I’ve spent time. Most cops elsewhere focus on petty violations and treat you like an animal when you commit one. In DC, if you pop a U-ey in the middle of Wisconsin Ave, most times they won’t bat an eye, and if they do, they’ll say “don’t do it next time.” In VA, you’d be doing jail time or a court date. In MD, cops are all at stop signs of waiting with speed guns.

    • I hadn’t thought about it like that, but I think you’re right about their perspective. DC cops do need to distinguish between what to deal with and what to let slide a lot more than cops in other areas, whether its dealing with diplomats or motorcades, or serious violence.

      I think my tip is to listen to what they say, and acknowledge that you are listening. That seems to be really important to DC cops. You may be able to argue later, but make sure you’ve acknowledged what they say.

    • saf

      U turns are legal unless posted in DC.

  • I agree that he/she does seem whiny, but really? you all think he/she deserves a ticket for not hanging up fast enough, while shifting from park to drive, all the while completely stopped?! If the car isn’t moving and is on the side of the road (so, not a red light situation), and it’s obvious the person PULLED OVER to talk on the phone so as to NOT talk while driving, you still think they deserve a ticket?

    Considering everything else that goes on in this town – including the hundreds of people who talk while driving close to 50 mph on a 30 mph street – I’d be pissed too, if this happened to me. Seems like the cop was looking for a reason to be rude/curse and generally abuse their authority.

    I like the earlier post asking how you all would feel if you got cursed at or ticketed for going 56 on a 55 mph. I bet you’d complain, and then all the other hypocrites would be telling you to STFU because you, technically, broke the law and deserve punishment, you entitled, whiny little baby.

  • I have met some great cops. Cops who care, who help, who put their lives on the line in the most dangerous of places. I have also met some terrible cops. Cops who abuse power, bully, and intimidate innocent people just because they can. To that point:

    Last winter, I was involved in an ice and snow-related car accident, in which I was not at fault and not ticketed for. I called the police to come and report the incident, and it took about thirty minutes for someone to arrive. I have no issue with this at all, as I assumed it would take that long or even longer. At the time of the accident, there was packed ice on the road from previous storms, but the snow was barely flurries. By the time the cop showed up, however, the snow was coming down pretty hard. When the officer arrived, she pulled over, rolled down the window, and made no motion to get out of her car. I was dressed for work in dress shoes and clothes, and as soon as I saw her roll down her window, I came up to the car with my license, registration, and insurance info. She took the items from me, and I stood outside her window, waiting to talk to her. At this point, she realized she didn’t have the right paperwork, and called a fellow cop nearby to bring it to her. When she was done, she turned to me and asked me for my license, registration, and insurance info…which I had just given her. When I told her that I had already given it to her, she assured me that I had not. When I assured her that it was the first thing I had done, she began to scream at me and accuse me of lying. She then suggested that I had dropped it while walking from my car to her car parked across the street, which was now covered in snow, and told me to go look for it. I spent more than 30 minutes, soaking wet and freezing, on my hands and knees, spreading the snow and frantically looking for the items which I KNEW I had already given her. She never once got out of her car. By the time the other policeman arrived, I suppose he took pity on me, and asked her to let me into her warm car in the passenger seat. Almost immediately when I got into her car, I started scanning the interior, and guess what I found? My items, shoved far up on her dashboard, on her side of the car, in between the dash and the windshield. When I pointed them out to her, with a smile and much relief, she told me that I MUST HAVE PUT THEM THERE. To her credit, she became much nicer after that, and by the time I left, I decided I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and not report the incident.

    Was there any major harm done, other than my frozen toes and fingers? No. Was it appropriate for her to act that way, and then try to blame the situation on me? No. In the end, I realize that she was an officer of the law with a very stressful job, and if I were her, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave the warmth and safety of my cop car either. So I let it go, and was thankful that she didn’t try to pin me a ticket for lying to a police officer (if you can even do that).

    I’m still grateful that they showed up and helped, which is their job…but what if every cop treated people that way? What if everyone were presumed guilty of imagined crimes, and cops were always “in the right”, even when they were really wrong? There’s a difference between doing your job and doing it well.

  • I would’ve told the writer of this letter to dial 1-800-EAT-SH*T.

    Seriously, this person is taking chances with other people’s lives, breaking the law, AND complaining about NOT being given a ticket, and you’re siding with him/her???

    • Yep, talking on the phone in a car that is completely stopped, on the side of the road (the letter indicates that, while the car was being shifted into drive, they had not yet moved at all) is totally “taking chances with other people’s lives”. Definitely a stupid risk and they should be punished.

      I want you to think about this next time you break the law, by, say, jaywalking, speeding by less than 5mph, not coming to a complete and full stop when turning right on red even though you can see there is no traffic, rolling through stop sign on a deserted intersection in a bike, etc. Because I’m sure you NEVER EVER do any of that. Ever.

  • I keep trying to chime in with something that involves a word that starts with the letter “f” and expresses a certain sentiment toward “the police,” but my comments keep getting deleted. But isn’t it only fair that different perspectives are represented?

  • Why is PoP even featuring this story? A waste of space on this blog.

  • of course I’ve had many incidents with MPD like the above. Officers cussing at civilians is not the least bit shocking.

    What shocked me was black officers using the N-Word and “Illegals” about black and latin perps. Black cop had no problem using the N-word in front of a white civilian.

    but that’s how they do it in DC, you know?

  • so, personally i think one’s ability to drive while on the phone depends on their ability to multi-task (and whether they drive automatic or manual transmission). some people are better at it than others. honestly if the driver had a bluetooth/headset then it would have been more ‘legal’ than holding the phone up to their ear, but it may not necessarily have made them more or less dangerous.
    i have seen some horrible driving in dc from people who were on phones, and people who weren’t.

    i also agree that the cop was being combative and in a way abusing his power to treat the driver, a regular citizen, in whatever way he wanted just because of his position of authority. but it is true that he could have given you a $100 ticket, which is what i expected, and ideally the tickets would discourage one from putting themselves and others at a lower risk of getting in an accident. so , i guess the cop didn’t use that measure (the ticket) when perhaps he should have, which would have been fulfilling his appropriate duties. instead he gave himself a power trip because he can. .. i would still have felt fortunate to not have the frickin 100$ ticket.

    • People are pretty bad at multi-tasking that involves talking on the phone and operating a vehicle – they excel at coming up with rationalizations as to why it is OK

  • If the emailer was in or behind Union Station it could have been a Metro Transit Police officer or even a private security guard, which may explain the ‘sliding over’ and ‘rolling down’ of the window.

    While everyone love to blame MPD for everything, I can think of at least 30 law enforcement agencies that operate in DC off the top of my head… more if I sit and think about it a little bit, and inside or near a metro station a person is more likely to encounter MTPD or Amtrak Police than an MPD officer.

  • Since I’m the only MPD Officer who regularly comments on the blog, let me add my two cents:

    From the original writer:

    “I put the car in drive and began to hang up my phone, when a cop car pulled in behind me. I didn’t move, and the cop car flashed his lights, then proceeded to pull along side me.”

    Which means that you were really pulling off and the officer could clearly see your phone to your ear as you were pulling off. I see people do this all the time and 9 times out of 10 when they say they were “Just getting off the phone” they weren’t.

    “The cop then slid to his passenger seat, rolled down his window and knocked on my window.”

    That’s B.S. No Officer is going to slide over to the passenger seat to knock on your window. First, there’s too much stuff in the way (computers, etc.). Second, ever try to slide to the passenger’s side of a Crown Victoria or Impala while wearing a duty belt? Damn near impossible. I’d just raise my voice or sound the air horn.

    “I rolled down my window, and the officer said (and I quote) ” Get off the F***ing phone.”

    I don’t lead with F-bombs in passing conversation with citizens. If they did say that, it’s dumb and unprofessional in that context.

    “I’m not sure what disturbs me more, the fact that the police officer dropped the F bomb on me, didn’t get out of his car, or when I admitted I was a little lost, he didn’t even ask if I needed help. And the area I was in is not well populated, and not that safe late at night. I also have to admit I look like I’m about 18 when I’m actually 26.”

    Why does he need to get out of his car to tell you to get off the phone? Wasn’t talking to you from the car enough? And if you need directions, why didn’t you ask? We’re not mind readers and if you don’t open your mouth and ask, I’m under no obligation to be your tour guide.

    “I can’t help but think this officer violated his duties of an officer of the law a few times during my brief encounter.”

    No ‘duties’ were violated. Regulations regarding proper conduct- Yes (if he dropped the f-bomb; No- for everything else. We’re not required to get out of the car to talk to you (although it’s safer for us in some some contexts. We’re also not required to escort you everywhere.

    “I was just wondering if anyone else has ever had this type of experience before of an member of the MPD.”

    Every time I go to work.

    From the comments:

    If I tell a cop to fuck off, flip him off, etc., I’ll get arrested!

    Outliers. 99.9% of the time nothing happens. We might engage you a little verbally, but most of the time we just laugh it off. We get called pigs, told to fuck off, called motherfuckers, etc. every day. But really, there’s no lawful way we can arrest you for being obnoxious to us.

    From Coptalk:

    “Pulling over and using your phone is not a violation of this law. You can in fact pull over, after having determined you’re too wasted to drive your car and that’s a defense to OUI/DUI.”

    Right on the cell phone, wrong on the DUI. You have physical control, I can lock your ass up on DUI as long as I have P.C. and can articulate that you’re in physical control of the vehicle. Good luck with the, “I was drunk but I pulled over defense, so nyah nyah I’m not ‘driving'” defense. You’ll get your ass laughed out of Superior Court.

    “This should not have resulted in the ticket (which is potentially why he didn’t give one). If a ticket had been issued, I’d have been happy to represent this person in court and cross examine this a$$hole on the stand. I would be my pleasure to waste his time for a day so maybe he’d think twice about being a jerk for no reason the next he encounters a member of the public.”

    Have fun with that, Jack McCoy. BTA, which is where a cell phone ticket would end up, is an administrative hearing, not a court of law. And please waste my day in BTA because I’m getting paid by the hour to be there. You wasting my time on my day off gets my bar tab for the week covered.

    From Mr. Poon

    “DC cops ought to be required to have foul mouths. They routinely patrol some of the worst neighborhoods in the western world and yeah, they’re often a little jaded. I think a lot of us who live in NW and other nicer neighborhoods don’t often appreciate just how difficult being a DC cop actually is. Saying “get the f*** of the phone” seems like it’s not that big of a deal.”

    It’s not hard a lot of the time, but it’s also not easy. It’s just dealing with the same scumbags day in and day out and realizing that a large minority of the D.C. population is incapable of tying it’s own shoes without police help that makes us a bit surly. As for dropping the F-bomb, It’s all about context. I wouldn’t drop it on the rich folks in Georgetown, Crestwood, Capitol Hill, etc. because they get uptight about it. In Park Morton, Barry Farms, Kennedy St., MLK, etc., the F-Bomb is more of a mid-sentence punctuation mark for many folks. Speaking to people who’ve spent their entire lives living the ‘street’ mentality will laugh in your face if I speak to them like I would speak to someone when I worked in an office.

  • woah officer dude rivieri is a great example of why many people don’t trust or respect cops. what a fucking ass.

    if i ever meet him, i’ll call him dude.

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