Reader Reports MPD Abuse of Power

Photo by PoPville flickr user afagen

“Dear PoPville,

My boyfriend and I left Nellie’s tonight [Friday] around 6pm and were walking back to our condo in Bloomingdale. We passed by the 9:30 Club and there was a ten year old BMW parked across the sidewalk. My boyfriend is a BMW-phile, so as a joke, I softly bumped him into the rear quarter panel and said something to the effect of “you’re going to buy this car for me?” We giggled and kept walking when suddenly this guy with a badge called us back to the car. He was an MPD officer and claimed we’d damaged his car somehow. He demanded our identification and threatened to arrest us.

He took my driver’s license and wrote down my information. I asked him to go look for actual damage on his car and he refused. My boyfriend initially refused to give him his name and our address, but as a lawyer I told him he should just cooperate with the cops, even when they’re being irrational d*cks. My boyfriend told him to go look for damage on his car, since he was detaining us, and again he refused. My boyfriend gave his information but then asked the cop if he was detaining us because we are gay, and the cop suddenly stammered and gave our licenses back and told us to be on our way. I asked him for a card and he told me to look at his badge to get his name, and refused to give us his badge number…so this is my chance to say that Officer, you cannot use your badge to “protect” your personal property, you homophobe.”

147 Comment

  • So was he detaining you because you are gay?

    • Or perhaps because the brilliant lawyer referred to the cop as an “irrational d*ck”? That type of entitled, obnoxious behavior usually works SO well. Especially when the person you’re offending is armed. I think the OP is VERY lucky that the person he and his partner offended was a cop. A hot-headed civilian who got dissed like that might have had a much less rational response.

  • ” I softly bumped him into the rear quarter panel and said something to the effect of “you’re going to buy this car for me?”

    Were you drinking? Your definition of soft, maybe hard to somebody else. How about you actually try respecting other peoples properties, and maybe you wont be hassled.

  • Oh boy, that last line is going to push the comment count into the stratosphere.

  • What an a$$hat. Please file a report.

    • So let me get this right, they purposely hit somebodies property as joke and they are the a$$hat. Lol if you guys file a report, if I was him I would file a property damage report again you.

      • gotryit

        I’ve tried to get the police to respond about some jerkfaces walking on top of my parked car, and all they did was say “well, there’s no damage, so there’s not much we can do. call us if there’s another problem.”

        • lol +1 same here. Had kids climbing all over my car and 911 said they would be out when they could. Never showed up.

        • Had another car parked so its bumper was sitting *on top* of my bumper, depressing the back of my car, flagged down passing officer, after he had lengthy consultation with another officer, they decided there wasn’t even a ticket for this since they couldn’t say any bumper damage was “new.” So, yeah.

  • Uh, what? The accusation of homophobia seems like a pretty big stretch just based on the complaint here.

  • I also have some questions. Was the officer drinking? He had his personal vehicle and wasn’t in uniform. If he was off-duty and using his badge to drunkenly harass a gay couple, that’s pretty serious.

  • It is inconsiderate to bump your partner into someone else’s car, it could have been damaged, scratched, etc. It was a silly and unnecessary move, sounds like you were intoxicated but don’t be immature. Of course he was pissed.

    • Seems like an abuse of power on both sides. First, the writer and his boyfriend shouldn’t be touching other folks’ stuff. Second, the car owner shouldn’t behave like a 7th grader whose stuff gets touched. If there was actual damage, the car owner should have identified it and called the on-duty police to report a property crime. Clearly the car owner had a beef with somebody touching his car, but when an officer is off duty (and if they’re in a personal car they’re off duty) there’s too much conflict of interest for them to be demanding personal information from the general public and refusing to provide their own identification.

      • I think a DC officer in DC is technically always “on duty.”

        • Well okay, but then it seems like there should be some sort of ethical standards that the officers have to abide by to prevent this kind of conflict of interest. I’d suggest that for non-life-threatening issues, off-duty officers should consider themselves citizens when it comes to their own interests and property. Cops are supposed to be disinterested law enforcers, not defenders of their own (illegally parked) cars. They’re not supposed to take sides, which is impossible when one side is oneself.

    • “sounds like you were intoxicated ”

      LOL have you ever had a mixed drink at Nellie’s? Of course they were intoxicated.

  • Is it really necessary to bump into someone’s car just to ask a question? You couldn’t have walked past it, asked your boyfriend the same question? It has the same effect. Just feel like this could have been avoided if someone’s personal property would have been respected.

  • What a psycho. Definitely file a report. I doubt that you are the only people that his badge makes him feel free to harass and the next ones may not be as aware of their rights as you guys are. I’m glad that you were able to get him to back off.

  • justinbc

    So many parts of this story do not add up. Alcohol is great for making stories go in your favor in your head.

  • Have respect for other people’s property if you want to be respected yourself.

  • I just automatically assume any nice car in DC is owned by a diplomat, a drug dealer, or a cop. Regardless, they all own guns so you should behave accordingly around their precious vehicle.

  • I kind of don’t believe that this happened exactly as told here. Regardless, not pushing your boyfriend into people or objects is a great way to not have undesired confrontations with people.

  • He’s one of the newer officers that works at the 9:30 club during shows, so he definitely was not drinking. He’s not technically off-duty so he’s allowed to present himself as MPD. He’s a good guy overall, maybe a little over-zealous… (like many cops), and probably overreacted a bit by demanding your information, but his car is pretty nice and I probably would’ve been slightly irritated if it was my bmw and you bumped into it. I’d say both parties are probably in the wrong. Next time, if you don’t bump people into other people’s property, cops won’t be jerks to you. I also don’t think you have any basis to accuse him of being a homophobe, you don’t even know the guy. He just doesn’t want his car f*cked with.

  • While the officer may not have been all the way right in this instance lets take a look at your actions as well

    i would not take kindly to anyone banging into my car soft or not

    again, not to say the officer was 100% justified or correct in his ways… you should reevaluate what you did to initiate any interaction with him

  • I think the point is that the cop couldn’t/wouldn’t prove that his car was in any way damaged and instead abused his power as a police officer because appears to be a short-tempered hot head. Instead of serving and protecting the citizenry, he instead chose to harass and intimidate.

    Know your rights. Depending on the circumstance, just because the police ask you for personal information, doesn’t mean you have to give it.

    • +500. If there was damage, I could understand the cop being so pissed. As it is, he flipped out because someone bumped into his car on foot.

    • justinbc

      “Instead of serving and protecting the citizenry, he instead chose to harass and intimidate.”
      You don’t know what this particular officer’s duty consists of, so don’t pretend that you do by implying that he’s not doing it.

    • Whether to give this “technically not off duty” cop one’s personal information is the interesting part of this story to me. Since there’s no law requiring anyone to carry identification while walking, isn’t it possible to just say “sorry, I lost my driver’s license, my name is John Smith, and I live at 1234 Freedom Parkway”? I understand it may be uncomfortable to sass a belligerent person claiming to be a cop, but if there’s no evidence of a crime (e.g., no property damage) under what authority would any officer have the right to demand this information?

  • So how do you know he was actually in the MPD? Did he show his badge? you just couldn’t see the badge number?

    And what makes you think he was homophobic? Talk about jumping to conclusions.

    Some serious holes to this story.

    • This. Unless there’s something else, there is a strong chance this guy was not a cop.

      • he is a cop. 9:30 has a bunch that work shifts during shows. they park right out front across the street.

        • How the hell is this legal?
          In NYC it’s a BIG no-no for cops to work private security for bars, clubs, etc. There’s way too many conflicts of interest, opportunities for bribery, mob influences, etc. Working private security for a club is basically a legalized bribe.

          • Thank the DC police union for this one. Cops get paid the overtime rate by private businesses who want extra security. My condo looked into it after we had some vandalism issues. After we suggested to the district commander that it would be helpful to have more patrols in our neighborhood, he suggested we pay for off-duty cops to stand guard. Pathetic.

  • How does he know the cop wasn’t gay? HETERONORMATIVITY ALERT!!!

  • While the cop may have overreacted, my takeaway in this is that you take no responsibility for acting like an ass and used your orientation to intimidate.

  • lovefifteen

    It’s not fair to call this cop a homophobe. And I’m saying this as a gay person.

  • C’mon, the BMW is 10 YEARS OLD! What a piece of crap.

  • Any chance DC can issue a citation for both of these folks (cop and OP), perhaps on the grounds of general stupidity? Great lesson here in how NOT to avoid confrontation by both children.

  • Asking myself, would the cop have harassed these guys for bumping into any other car on the street? If the answer is no (and I bet you $100 is it), it’s an abuse of power.
    Further, if he was hired by 9:30 Club to secure their premises, and he’s spending time simpering over his 10 year old BMW, the club owners have a beef, too. He can’t be paying attention to the job he was hired to do if he’s demanding personal info of passersby who have nothing to do with the club.
    FURTHER, if there was no damage to his car, it’s a clear-cut case of bullying. A dirty look is all that’s needed or justified.
    (And OP, sounds to me like you were stumbly drunk and acting silly. Never a good way to earn the respect of folks around you.)

    • Your willingness to bet means nothing. Whether the cop would have confronted them for bumping a different car is unknown and unknowable.

      The cop may or may not be a homophobe, but the facts presented give no indication that he is. I’d bet you a 6-pack that he would have reacted the same way if a heterosexual couple did the exact same thing. This is similarly unknown and unknowable, though.

    • I’m not going to bet any money, but I have to agree that if an officer wouldn’t react the same way to a person bumping a random civilian’s car, then it’s not an appropriate use of police authority to threaten to arrest someone for a non-crime just because it’s the officer’s property that was affected. (It’s one thing if, as a private citizen–it sounds from the description as though the officer was in plainclothes, although it’s not 100% clear–the guy wants to say “hey, a**holes, don’t bump my car!” but once you bring out a police badge and the threat of arrest, that substantially ups the power dynamic and intimidation factor.) That said, if I were in that situation, I would be kind of shaken up, but I’m not sure I’d get this outraged about it given that I probably shouldn’t have bumped the car in the first place; lesson learned not to mess with people’s stuff because you never know who’s going to fly off the handle about it. And I don’t see anything in this account that indicates discrimination or homophobia–just a police officer on a bit of a power trip.

    • tonyr

      I would expect that the 9:30 club would cut him some slack about not being 100% focussed on securing their premises since they would even open the doors for two hours after this altercation took place.

      • Ah, I see. So he wasn’t an off-duty cop being paid to keep the peace around the 9:30 Club, since it was hours from opening. He was just a bully with a badge, a short temper, and a couple of easy targets in his sights. That’s better.

  • I have zero empathy for all parties involved.

  • Wait, so you’re drunkenly horseplaying, possibly damaging someone else’s vehicle and then when you get stopped your boyfriend plays the gay card even though there’s no indication that he stopped you two because of your orientation? Moreover, you have no idea if he’s gay, which on MPD is a distinct possibility. So who’s the jerk again?

  • Isn’t it possible that the guy stammered and backed off because once you accused him of homophobia he thought you would inflate the encounter into a discrimination charge even if it wasn’t one?

    • No, that’s crazy talk! He HAS to be a homophob! Isn’t it obvious?

      Or not…

      I would react the same way too if someone accused me of being a homophob, even without the possibility of a discrimination charge. I would just be shocked and thinking, “WTF are you talking about?”

  • Did the OP do something crazy like apologize to the guy? Because that would be crazy.

  • I’d be pissed if some drunk obnoxious couple purposely bumped into my car as well. get over it. You are not a victim.

    • Well, really, having a pedestrian bump into your card does not make you a victim. The cop should just get over it.

      • Here’s hoping at least 12 people bump into your car today. And every day for the rest of the year. LOL.

        • I don’t get bent out of shape when another CAR bumps mine (like when parallel parking), having a drunk careen into it is hardly going to bother me.

  • As a lawyer, I’d say this case is closed.

  • Ummmm, you do get that if you had just kept your hands off someone else’s property, NONE of this would have happened, right?

  • Since we are assuming the OP’s were drunk, can we say they were on coke as well? I think it will add to “our” story.

    and to reply ahead of time… I can go to bars without having alcohol alter my actions. My friend comes to bars with me to hang out or watch football and doesn’t even drink.

    I’m actually against the OP and agree with most comments, but I love when comments are like a game of telephone as they progress

    • Dunno about the coke, but definitely seems like they dabbled in some douchebagerry before heading out.

    • justinbc

      You’re right, they probably just went to Nellie’s on a Saturday night for the empanadas. They did leave at 6PM after all, geezers!

    • My thought as well. I’ve been to nellie’s a handful of times and somehow managed to not have a drink there. They have a decent menu if you’re that desperate to spend money.

  • I really wonder what the OP would do if someone — maybe neighborhood kids “playing” — went out of their way to “softy bump” his property. I have the feeling that he would probably go “lawyer” on them. OP sounds like an irrational d*ck himself. Or maybe just drunken and entitled.

  • Is the above picture of the actual car?

  • A BMW on a cop’s salary, even an old BMW, isn’t easy. I’ll bet he loves that car. So, naturally he got pissed when he saw some smart-asses messing with it, over-reacted, and quickly came to his senses when the OP’s boyfriend played the “gay card.”

    People are human, even cops. The OP should consider himself lucky he didn’t mess around with somebody’s car who, in the end, didn’t come to senses. This is a city and there are lots of crazy people out there. OP, you need to remember that and be more careful. This one’s on you.

  • Psmitty311

    As a car nut, I can completely understand being royally pissed about someone intentionally bumping into your car. If that’s the car in the picture, and if it is actually 10 years old (that model was made from 2003 to 2010), then it looks like he’s taken very good care of it, which takes a lot of time, money, and passion to do. I get mad when I see folks parallel parking with no regard for the other cars and bump them before stopping, or opening their doors into other people’s cars. I get that we all live in a big city which is rough on our cars, but still, what is it about living within certain boundaries that makes it okay to willfully or potentially damage someone else’s property, and everyone should just accept it?!? Does living in DC mean I should just give up and let everything fall apart?

    If the story is accurate, then it sounds like the cop went a little overboard, but I think he was completely within his rights to admonish you both for your inconsiderate behavior since you could very well have damaged his vehicle (damage can happen more easily than you think). We all have to live together in this city, and that’s usually made easier by folks being considerate of each other and their property. Hopefully OP learned a little something.

    Also, OP states in the last line that he’s submitting this so he can call the cop a homophobe. I’m kind of surprised this would get posted publicly since baseless name-calling is just name-calling. I expect it in the comments section, but not the main posts.

    • Psmitty311

      Just saw PoP’s comment about the picture, so my comments about the condition of the car are no longer valid.

    • justinbc

      Definitely agree re: your last comment. A little editing here (especially given that now the person in question has been identified) would have been nice.

  • brookland_rez

    I wouldn’t want someone bumping/touching my bike, regardless of whether there was damage. It’s just disrespectful of other people’s property.

    I was in a restaurant once and a group of businessmen started laying a folder of papers on the seat of my bike. I was right there on the outdoor seating area. I went over to them and explained that my bike was not their table and to move on. They apologized and moved on.

    Obviously there wasn’t any damage, but I was offended that my property was disrespected. And I think that is probably what the officer took issue with.

  • From yesterday’s NY Times story titled: “The Gayest Place in America?” about modern-day DC:

    “Gone is the closeted, often intolerant Washington of a decade ago; the capital is now perhaps the gayest place in the nation.”

    Everyone should be glad that DC is now one of the most tolerant places in the country. In conducting himself so shamefully, OP does a disservice to those who suffered through true fear and oppression before him. Just awful.

    • Being one of the most tolerant places in the country does not make it an entirely tolerant place. There is still homophobia and discrimination, even here in DC.

      • Sure, but there’s nothing in this story to indicate the cop is a homophobe, and given how much things have changed for the better I’m not inclined to assume this was at all his motive.

        My point is OP should be ashamed for pulling the bigot card in such a situation.

        • Your original comment came across as if the point you were making is that discrimination against gays was out of the question here given DC’s standing relative to other parts of the US. I just wanted to clarify that the bar is low in the rest of the country so being better than other places does not mean that there are no problems left here.
          I don’t have any real opinion about this case and whether the cop is a homophobe or not. It seems like a classic example of there being 3 sides to every story – the OP’s side, the cop’s side, and the truth.

    • There are lots a straight people in DC who behave badly when drunk. I would hope a few gays are allowed to do it without destroying the progress the gay community has otherwise made.

      • I hear you– but calling somebody a homophobe, especially in writing after the fact and with zero evidence of homophobia as a motivation, seems significantly beyond “behaving badly”.

        I don’t think publishing this letter does anyone any good. It’s not news, it’s one-sided, and it ends in name-calling. It’s not why I come to this blog, and I’m a little disgusted in myself for getting drawn into this thread in the first place.

  • Ugh, men. The dude should have just let it go.

  • Actually sounds like not too bad an experience for most interactions with cops but still sucks if you aren’t used to having to deal with them. regardles… ACAB.

  • Well, let’s start out with the fact that this was at 6:00pm – at midnight, or even 10pm, I’d say there’s a big chance the OP was a little buzzed or more, but at 6:00pm, the timing is more like stopping in for one drink at happy hour.
    That being said, I think both Cop and OP are at fault here. OP, don’t touch any private property anywhere ever even just a little if it isn’t yours. I’d be pissed if you shoved your boyfriend into my car, and mine is an older car than the one described. Not because I’d be worried it would get damaged – it’s been in the city long enough that I can’t tell new damage from old damage anymore – but because it shows a general lack of respect for others. Bad OP! Bad!
    Cop, chill out about your car. It’s a car, not a priceless Ming vase. I realize it’s important to you and it shows a general lack of respect for you when someone touches it unnecessarily (see above), but if you don’t want anyone to go near it, don’t park it on a sidewalk at the 9:30 Club on a Friday night. I don’t like the TSA groping my butt or taking naked pictures of me, so I try not to fly anymore on trips I can easily drive or take the train. However, when I do go into an airport to fly somewhere, I do so expecting to be in a TSA porno or expecting to get felt up. Same thing applies here – if I take my car to U Street, I expect someone to sit on it, climb on it, lean on it or whatever, so instead of looking for a parking spot that is close to where I am going I look for one several blocks away. In the quieter residential areas, I think my car is more likely to be left alone than on U itself. And if someone *does* touch your car and there is no damage, be grateful there’s no damage and leave them alone. If there is damage, call the real on-duty police and fill out a report. As a cop, you ought to know these things. Bad Cop! Bad!
    Both sides, though, you need to chill. The cop got too worked up over his car, and the OP probably got more worked up writing about it (and now reading these comments) than he needed to. Just relax and go out and enjoy this beautiful fall day!

  • So it sounds like there was a police officer with his personal car parked on the sidewalk. Did the bump happen because the two had to go around it? Why was his car parked on the sidewalk where people walk?

  • So let me get this straight. You come out of the club (intoxicated), purposely push someone into another persons property (car), then decide to get all high and mighty, indignant about how your drunk lack of self respect is treated?

    Considering what you’ve admitted in this post, I would wager a lot of money that you have soft peddled your interactions with the cop and overstated his. You sound like just another entitled yuppie in DC.

    For the record, there have been a few well reported instances where people slap, kick someone elses cars, and the owner has gotten out and beaten them to a pulp, and left them on the street.

    Don’t be such am obnoxious drunk in the future. Despite what you think of yourself, you aren’t that important.

  • Ok, this is total bullshit. My wife and I were walking our dog past the 930 club at the same time. These two guys, completely shitfaced, were walking about twenty feet ahead of us. First, they didn’t “bump” the car, they walking right into it, forcefully. They kept going and were surprised (as was I) that a uniformed MPD officer got out and barked at them and they sheepishly walked back over to the car. I went on my way so I don’t know what words were exchanged, but this guys account is total BS. From my perspective, its a case of two drunk assholes who could barely walk getting called out and publically scolded for being knocking into someone’s car. I guess i’m not surprised that these two would get there revenge on the cop by smearing him on a blog, but now I know to call mpd and give my account, lest the cop get reprimanded for the “abuse” of watching where they’re going.

    Also, the cop’s car was a silver lexus 350i, not a bmw, mere details…

    • Hi Officer!

    • If it really was a Lexus, that’s not a mere detail, since the person who submitted this story cited the fact his boyfriend is a “BMW-phile” as his specific reason for bumping him into the car “as a joke” (not sure how that would funny in any case, but we’ll set that aside). If that’s inaccurate, it would seem to indicate that they were more intoxicated than the initial message lets on and calls into question their perception of how forcefully they struck the car (let alone the interactions that followed).

      • Or maybe, considering al the discrepancies between the two stories, the witness above saw two totally different people and a different car?

        • Two different people bumping into a car at the same time (and date?) near the 9:30 Club and a uniformed officer hopped out of the car on both occasions? Fat chance.

        • Sounds very possible that these are two different incidents. Also, I’m not sure how Witness can be so certain that OP’s account was “total BS” when he acknowledges that he didn’t hear what words were exchanged between the OPs and the officer. (Not defending the OP–and who knows, maybe if the OP and boyfriend were indeed totally sh*tfaced, then the cop was legitimately threatening to arrest them for drunk and disorderly conduct, or something–but point being, it sounds like Witness only got part of the story, whatever it is.)

  • Anyone recall the gay lawyer who was arrested a couple years ago (it may have also been near U Street) for singing “I hate the cops” in the vicinity of an officer? Sounds a lot like this guy.

  • Probably the cop just can’t stand the sound of grown men giggling.

  • Drunk or not, don’t “gently bump” into people’s cars. Pretty simple really, respect other people’s property. I suspect that if you do report this, you’ll be laughed out of the station. Also, you’re damn lucky it was a cop and not someone who was gonna beat the hell out of you (or stab you, or shoot you) for doing stupid like that. Believe it or not, this, or any City can actually be dangerous and it’s not your personal little playground.

    • justinbc

      That’s actually a pretty good point. Had it been a “regular” citizen whose car he bumped into the result could have wound up much worse than a stern talking to, especially if the guy genuinely was a homophobe.

  • The officer doesn’t have anything against gay people. The officer has something against mouth breathers who don’t respect personal property.

  • As a gay man that has a job that occasionally involves working with the public, I would have to side with the officer. Why? Because sometimes even I get a little hot under the collar. I might say or do things in moments that I later see as unnecessary. The officer, no doubt also clued into this blog, no doubt feels the same. Give the guy a break, much like I would ask that you give me a break. No need to involve my boss.

    Now, as a past 2004 BMW owner that has since sold my car and relies on Metro, I can say your bf has really bad taste in cars. I can not think of a single purchase that has caused me more grief, maintenance, tickets, expenses, or stress. My 1988 Chrysler Lebaron had fewer problems. If you feel the officer has “something coming to him”, think no further than he will purely pay his dues by owning a BMW. Don’t fall for the same mistake.

    With that, let it go, and do your best to enjoy coming Thanksgiving week.

  • Come purposefully bump into my chevy equinox and see how I react. He didn’t come after you because you’re gay. he came after you because you’re a jackass.

  • Is this a joke? Why does it have anything to do with sexual orientation?

Comments are closed.