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Public Safety May 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Ask a Cop

Hey folks,

Like many of the sites I enjoy, cops aren’t well understood or painted with a giant brush. I will not argue that there are cops who are power hungry jerks, much like there are power hungry jerks who manage Applebees or are doctors. Anyway, I thought I would let people ask questions and I’d answer them as honestly as I could.

I won’t tell you where I work in DC, but I’m on patrol. Meaning when you call 911, I’m the guy that shows up.

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I have no questions, but just wanted to say thank you for your service. I always feel a sense of security when I see a police officer on patrol, and I very much appreciate what you do for the community.

Well thanks Interested Bystander. Always nice seeing people appreciate us. We break a lot less stuff than firefighters, but they get most of the baked goods. Appreciate you commenting.

My uncle was a prosecutor, and once made the point that (among other things) police officers are trained observers. So much of criminal enforcement seems to depend on cops showing up, talking to people, and writing stuff down. (That goes double when the witnesses are somewhat dubious themselves.) I just finished jury service in Superior Court, and the ability of the jury to convict a bad guy absolutely hinged on the testimony given by officers, and testimony of others recorded by officers.

Care to comment?

Thanks for taking the time, officer! Let’s say I see an incident involving police on my street. Cops come out to a house, block traffic, lights on, arrests appear to be made, but not clear what’s transpired. As an un-involved neighbor who doesn’t want to come outside and be seen as nosy, but just curious about what’s going on, how do you recommend I could best get information? I would like to be aware of the criminal (or not) activity on my block.

What do you think is the greatest impediment to you doing your job effectively? How can the community help?

I also want to express my thanks for the great work that our police does.
By the same token I must that admit I feel intimidated when I approach a police officer with a question as the very few times that I had done it, I have found their attitude unfriendly and arrogant.

So MonkeyDaddy, the ability to take good notes is crucial because it helps the officers remember the scene and the players if they need to go to trial. It’s why we’re trained to notebook as much as we can so that we can recall the incident later on.

DCSpring, you can always call the District and ask to speak to the Lt. who oversees your PSA and ask them. However, just know that the people in that house have a right to privacy too and therefore you won’t necessarily get all the information you want.

Shortstack, I think I answered your question in the comments.

Zurga, I’m sorry. Cops are actually really nice people for the most part, but they tend to have an edge while on the street which is just their natural armor. Getting to know them and asking how they are doing or offering them water on a warm day, is helpful as opposed to only talking to them when you want to know what happened at a scene.

As you probably know, a common source of ongoing, low-level aggravation with the MPD is disregard for traffic and parking law – officers violating traffic and parking regulations without apparent good reason or consequences. Two examples: I saw a MPD officer turn on the siren to get a civilian to move from an illegal spot, only for that officer to park in the spot and walk away. Another time I saw an MPD officer park at a fire hydrant and walk into a restaurant. When I asked him about this, he said he was just picking up his dinner it wasn’t a danger because he had his radio on the whole time and could hear if a fire truck needed access. And I’m sure everyone, LE included, has seen a police officer turn on the siren, run the light, then turn the siren off again.

I understand that it’s not always possible for the police to follow traffic and parking laws while actively protecting the public; but there are so many times when there is no hot pursuit or exigent circumstances. My feeling is that seeing incidents such as these, makes otherwise sympathetic residents aggravated with the law enforcement community as a whole, and diminishes respect for the force.

What does this issue look like from your side? Is it a topic of discussion and if so, what are the discussions like?

Thank you.

Do cops target people with bogus traffic violations who look non-threatening when they are trying to get their quotas up for the month? Myself and several of my friends have been ticketed in recent months for traffic violations we were not guilty of. Meanwhile, I am almost killed at least a dozen times per day by cars and bikes running red lights and stop signs often right in front of cops who do nothing.

Neat idea, thanks. Unsolicited cop commentary: lots of my friends have unhappy things to say about the police, but my direct experience has been pretty good. Most of the problems I have with enforcement are more a product of performance metrics inherent to organizations (I argue this is misapplied in public service) and laws made without regard to data or any sort of cost-benefit analysis. But that all gets kinda soapboxy.

How ’bout this: I read that I can legally drink alcohol on my porch, and whining folks point to this as saying you can.
Looks like it to me, but more importantly, do the police care if I drink on my porch?

I trust that more serious questions will come up shortly and probably a bunch of name calling, accusations of bias, and bravado.

Do cops target people who look non-threatening with bogus traffic violations to get their quotas up for the month? Myself and several of my friends have received tickets for traffic violations we were not guilty of the past few months. Meanwhile I am nearly killed about a dozen times per day by cars and bikes running red lights and stop signs, often right in front of cops, who are not punished.

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