Dear PoPville – Frustrating Police Response

Dear PoPville,

I wanted to share a rather disturbing experience I had last Saturday (July 15) at the V Nail Salon on Park Rd, between 14th and 15th in Columbia Heights. I was there with about 25 other customers in the salon around 3 pm in the afternoon. A male entered the salon, clearly high as a kite on something, mumbling incoherently with only pants on. The owner of V nails, an older gentleman tried to ask the man to leave. At that point, the man escalated and became physically threatening to the owner, and began moving throughout the entire salon. He was clearly threatening to everyone in the place, we had no idea what he was on, if he had a weapon or what he could do to any one of us. I placed a call to 911 at 2:57 and provided a very detailed description (considering he was about 2 feet from me, that wasn’t exactly challening), along with at least one other customer and the shop owner. I put another call in at 3:03 when the man left the establishment and moved towards 16th street on Park Rd to alert police. The shop owner locked the door, and the man came back continuing to make threatening gestures through the window. Shockingly, considering the number of people in harms way, the police didn’t arrive until about 10 minutes after my first call. 4 uniformed officers came to the door of the salon and spoke with the owner. None came in and they split up, 2 going towards16th and 2 going towards 14th. No police officer ever returned to the salon. At about 3:20, I left and started walking towards 16th street. To my surprise, when I came towards to the corner of 16th and park, low and behold the man who had threatened 25 people was hanging out in the park across the catholic church (not exactly a shocking location for him to be found for anyone that knows the neighborhood in the slightest). I called 911 again at 3:25 and the dispatcher initially had a difficult time locating the original call, then explained that unless the shopkeeper filed charges, there was nothing the police could. I explained it was a bit difficult for the shop owner to file charges, when the police had clearly never apprehended the suspect since I was looking at him from across the street while talking to the dispatcher and there was no police presence. He stated he’d make a note about my concerns.

I then saw a police car driving down 16th street and flagged them down. The officers responded and called into dispatch to alert the officers assigned to the original call to let them know they had the suspect in sight. The dispatcher couldn’t find any record of any call about this incident (just to reiterate – I’m aware of at least 6 calls that occurred related to this incident), so the officer got into her vehicle and looked it up on her computer, where she learned that the call had been closed out and since it was closed out, they couldn’t find out who the assigned officers were. Furthermore, since the original complaint took place in the 3rd district and they were in the 4th district, they couldn’t take action. They explained that they had already been assigned a call and needed to clear that in their district, but afterwards would go back and check on the shopkeeper. I noted the absurdity of this when I was an eyewitness and had identified the man, they agreed but their hands were tied. I took their cards and returned to the shop. The shop owner confirmed that the police had never returned. I provided the business card of the police officers from district 4 and explained that they thought they would come back.

The whole thing was disturbing on so many levels. I don’t know if this is the level of police response we can expect in our neighborhood these days – but I find it incredibly disturbing at the various levels of inaction and incompetence. It certainly does not make this long time Mt Pleasant resident feel confident about any police response in the future in an emergency situation.

41 Comment

  • agreed on the lack of communication and the nonsense as per jurisdiction, however, the man who threatened the shop owner left the property and the establishment. trespassing perhaps because he returned, but then he left again. Not sure you can arrest someone for being a nuisance, even a scary one… sorry you got put out

    • What planet do you live on? Police could arrest him for Disturbance of the Peace as well as Assault charges for making threats of imminent physical harm.

      In any case it sounds as if he was intoxicated in public, which is also a crime.

      It sounds as though the man might also be mentally ill, so he should be checked out just to make sure he’s not a threat to himself or others.

      • public intoxication is not a crime in DC

        • Ahem.

          D.C. Code § 25-1001.

          (c) No person, whether in or on public or private property, shall be intoxicated and endanger the safety of himself, herself, or any other person or property.

          (d) Any person violating the provisions of subsection (a) or (c) of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, or imprisoned for not more than 90 days, or both.

          (e) Any person in the District who is intoxicated in public and who is not conducting himself or herself in such manner as to endanger the safety of himself, herself, or of any other person or of property shall be treated in accordance with Chapter 6 of Title 24.

          Also see D.C. Code 24-604 – Public intoxication

          (a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, any person who is intoxicated in public: (1) may be taken or sent to his home or to a public or private health facility; or (2) if not taken or sent to his home or such facility under clause (1) of this subsection, shall be taken to a detoxification center, by the Mayor.

          The medical officer in charge of such center shall have the authority to require any person admitted as a patient under this subsection to remain at such center until he is sober and no longer incapacitated, but in any event no longer than 72 hours after his admission as a patient.

          (b)(2) Any person who is taken into custody in the District of Columbia for violating any criminal provision applicable in the District of Columbia (other than such § 25-1001) and who appears to be intoxicated may be taken by the police to a detoxification center where he may be admitted as a patient for an immediate medical evaluation of his condition. As soon as it is determined that he is not in medical danger he shall be handled by the police as in any other criminal case.

  • What did the crazy guy look like?

  • Guess someone has to get hurt or killed before the police will take action.

    • Not making excuses or anything for them, but they can’t act until someone is physically harmed, and people are always eager to pull out a camera and turn a simple arrest into a Miranda issue. It’s a double edged sword. If the guy didn’t physically harm anyone, it would be hard to take action and most of MPD is busy counting money from speed cameras, too busy to respond to your safety calls. O_o

      • Drivers do kill significantly more people per year than crazies and drug abusers/dealers combined.

      • Er, have you ever heard of trespassing? it’s actually illegal.

      • ‘Not making excuses or anything for them, but they can’t act until someone is physically harmed’

        Are you joking? Whoever told you this was grossly misinformed. Read:


        D.C. Code – Title 22. Criminal Offenses and Penalties. (Refs & Annos)

        Subtitle I. Criminal Offenses.

        Chapter 13. Disturbances of the Public Peace.
        § 22-1307. Unlawful assembly; profane and indecent language.

        “It shall not be lawful for any person or persons within the District of Columbia to congregate and assemble in any street, avenue, alley, road, or highway, or in or around any public building or enclosure, or any park or reservation, or at the entrance of any private building or enclosure, and engage in loud and boisterous talking or other disorderly conduct, or to insult or make rude or obscene gestures or comments or observations on persons passing by, or in their hearing, or to crowd, obstruct, or incommode, the free use of any such street, avenue, alley, road, highway, or any of the foot pavements thereof, or the free entrance into any public or private building or enclosure; it shall not be lawful for any person or persons to curse, swear, or make use of any profane language or indecent or obscene words, or engage in any disorderly conduct in any street, avenue, alley, road, highway, public park or enclosure, public building, church, or assembly room, or in any other public place, or in any place where from the same may be heard in any street, avenue, alley, road, highway, public park or enclosure, or other building, or in any premises other than those where the offense was committed, under a penalty of not more than $250 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both for each and every such offense.”

        • Allison

          Heh if this section of the DC Code were enforced, I might not have moved out of Columbia Heights.

        • Hahaha, thanks for that, that was my laugh of the day. Have NEVER seen that enforced. However, it does sound like the PERFECT statute to cite, if you were ever going to try and crack down on juvenile crime in this city.

          Start in Logan Circle, or the steps in Chinatown on a weekend.

          But seriously, to OP, this is more typical of the kind of response I’ve experienced and heard about, from MPD. Sorry for your troubles, unfortunately not much can be done about random crazies. Had an Officer from 3D tell me, flat out, as someone I tried to file a complaint against got on a MetroBus, “we just try and get them out of our District, they’re more trouble than they’re worth, to take them in.”

          • 1. Just because you have never seen something happen, does that mean that it never happens.

            2. A seldom-enforced law is still an enforceable law.

            3. Disorderly Conduct is one of the ‘Disturbances of the Peace’ crimes listed in the D.C. Code (section 22-1321). Back in 2009, District police arrested attorney Pepin Tuma for saying “I hate the police” in public. He was charged with Disorderly Conduct.

          • It might interest you to know that in 2009, District police made 2744 arrests for disorderly conduct.

            That works out to more than seven disorderly conduct arrests PER DAY.

        • That section (1321) was repealed in April 2011. It is no longer the law in DC. The legislature replaced it with a new Disorderly Conduct statute that is currently in effect. At first blush, however, it sounds as though MPD could have made an arrest for at least the following offenses: (1) misdemeanor threats, (2) trespassing, (3) intoxication, AND (4) disorderly conduct (causing unreasonable fear). Even if they could not make an arrest then (due to the “probable cause misdemeanor” rules), they could have ascertained the suspect’s identity and applied for an arrest warrant based on the witness’s statement. The end.

      • Every single assertion in this comment is wrong.

  • This seems to be an ongoing issue lately. I work at a restaurant in the U St corridor and we recently had a man across the street who kept pulling his pants down, exposing both front and back as people passed by. While this was rather humorous, it also isn’t something customers of the establishments want to be seeing when they go out. Our manager called the police as well as several bystanders. The police showed up but then just told the man he had to stop doing that and left. Couldn’t they at least lock him up until he came down off of whatever he was on? It’s like this type of behaviour is something we’re all just supposed to deal with. Unacceptable.

    • “This seems to be an ongoing issue lately.” Lately? You should have spent some time on U street 10-15 years ago, nothing new here.

  • Simple- it’s a numbers game. It sounds like the police didn’t even take a report, which would be a record the crime occurred (and doesn’t require a suspect to there). If they took a report, then that contributes to the crime stats, which they have an incentive to minimize. I know friends who have been talked out of making a report too. This is why I have no faith when the police say crime stats are down.

    • This has happened to me as well. Police refusing to take reports/arrest suspects/issue tickets.

      I’m suspicious about the crime stats issue as well….now that many statistics are automatically generated, cops just don’t submit the reports. Makes it even easier to sit in a cruiser with the a/c blasting instead of getting off your ass and doing your job!!!

      • Ditto. When my roommate and I were burglarized in SW the police were trying to bully us into not filing a police report. I didn’t realize why until years later, when I heard a story on This American Life about NYPD being instructed by their supervisors to try to talk victims out of reporting crimes.

        • Ditto. I was hit by a cab (very obviously rear-ended) and the police officer insisted that he would not write a report, even though I had three witnesses and the cab driver had run through a yield sign. He explained it wasn’t necessary and it would be obvious to the insurance companies what happened. Low and behold, my insurance company refused to cover the claim because of the lack of a police report. I will never let an officer talk me out of one again, and I think it is a gross abuse of their power to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable position like that.

          • In my case they saw my roommate’s hookah and were trying to argue that they should be arresting us for having drug paraphernalia. One of the officers saw the stunned look on my face and said, “That’s what happen when you do drugs. They mess wit yo head.” None of them seemed to care that someone had bent our window bars, ransacked our house, stolen about $2000 of items, and could still be lurking upstairs. We even pulled out the packs of shisha to show the hookah was being used with legal products.

            Unfortunately for them, I knew damn well that hookahs aren’t illegal, and was determined to have them file the burglary report because I needed it for the insurance claim. But someone who doesn’t know better, is easily intimidated, and/or doesn’t need the police report could have gotten scared out of following through with it. This is disturbing because it makes it harder for the police to track trends that would allow them to catch serial criminals.

  • If you are a long time resident this certainly should be no surprise.

  • I’d zip this account on over to Jacob Kishter, Commander of 3D ([email protected]) and cc Kimberly Chisley-Missouri, Commander of 4D ([email protected]). Even if they could not arrest this guy for a crime, the lack of coordination and the loss of phone calls is very concerning.

    • +1.

      I’d also recommend contacting the Office of Unified Communications, which handles 911 calls:

      The fact that the dispatcher couldn’t find records of the OP’s earlier call or any of the others is disturbing.

      All kinds of “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” in this account…

  • I’m not sure I understand what type of crime occurred. Maybe trespassing, but it’s a business, so pretty hard to claim that. Yeah that guy might have been crazy and it was scary, but that’s not a crime.

    • a business is a private establishment. They can certainly refuse service to whomever they would like. Failure to leave can be trespassing. Also, if he made threats, it can be criminal threatening.

      • “Threats to Do Bodily Harm” DC Code 22-407 is a crime.

        “Unlawful Entry on Property” (which includes refusing to leave when lawfully asked to do so) DC Code 22-3302 is a crime.

        While both are misdeamnors given the description, the officer would still have the power to perform a warranltess aresst if he beleived the witnesses gave him probable cause to beleive the indivual had comitted unlawful entry AND if not arrested may cause injury to others. See DC Code 23-581(a)(1)(C).

    • Yet another case of someone with zero knowledge of an issue making a definitive pronouncement on it. If only the comeuppance could be in person, this would be rare.

  • I have been hung up on by 911 and the dispatchers clearly don’t understand the city. I live three blocks from a police station and I had a similar situation occur, where I called with suspicions (after being disconnected three times) and then waited, called with an update, waited, called to tell them the suspect was leaving, and still no police showed up. It was EXTREMELY disturbing. I’m nearly certain I witness a drug deal and wish the cops were there to either confirm or allay my concerns.

    • You saw a drug deal? Even if the cops showed up they couldn’t do anything. There is some great info and some awesome points but man there are some clueless posters on here. Do you really think Police can can every little thing in the DC code? go ahead and read through the DC code and look at some of the stuff in there.

  • PCP is a helluva drug.

  • Wow there is a whole bunch of missing the point going on here. Who really cares if they took a report or if the guy is prosecutable. The point is they should have arrived quickly, detained the person temporarily if needed, and moved him out of there to prevent anyone from being harmed. It’s not even arguable that there wasn’t sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify briefly cuffing the guy. And what is this yapping about Miranda? Miranda has nothing to do with anything here.

  • Welcome to DC. Please people. This is the city that tolerates monthly jaw breakings, 100+ homicides a year, 2500 known crew members, guns all over the place, open air drug markets, unsecured halfway houses where repeat DYRS offenders can just jump out of a window and commit murder. A whacked out guy walking around is no cause for concern here! Unless he is carrying a hammer!

  • Seriously, Saturday night I saw a guy actually being held back by his friend in Adams Morgan as he was verbally assaulting an MPD officer over police shootings. The officer did nothing other than take mental and visual note, and the guy walked away and soon was down the street with his buddies goofing around. Sometimes tolerance is called for.

  • Several things that people should be aware of (and I’m not using any of these to explain away what happened in this instance). When a call goes to 911 (run by the Office of Unified Communications, not MPD) they prioritize the calls based on the information that you have. Calls like this one may not have been placed as top priority calls, for whatever reason, and that’s why it took MPD a while to show up. If you are ever involved in an incident, ask the MPD officer what time they actually got the call, and then compare it to when 911 was called. Lots of factors are at play in this of course.

    I agree with the person who suggested you contact the District commanders. MPD’s website is actually pretty good about providing all the information you need about who to contact (with maps of the Districts and emails for the commanders and lieutenants). You’ll get more action from that then just posting an email to a website that MPD doesn’t monitor.

  • I live less than a block away from the Park Road 3D substation but have to call the 4D on V Street over 2 miles away since they won’t attend to any business below Park Road. Who the heck designed the re-districting?? Shouldn’t a police station service a circumference?

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