DC Police Union: “immediately reinstate district level vice units”

by Prince Of Petworth August 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm 95 Comments


From a press release:

“With homicides in the District quickly approaching triple digit numbers, shootings and armed robberies skyrocketing, and gun violence raging through all quadrants of the city, immediate measures need to be taken to address this epidemic.

In January of 2015, one of Chief Lanier’s directives went into effect that all vice investigations be turned over to a centralized narcotics unit. While the district vice units continued to exist, their responsibilities dwindled. A few months later, they were ordered to operate in full uniform, thus hamstringing their ability to conduct effective operations. At the end of May 2015, vice was disbanded completely and most officers were sent back to patrol. This is when crime began to spiral out of control.

The DC Police Union believes the dismantling of the district vice units is one of the main contributors to our current inability to combat rampant gun violence. Drug dealers and gang members have taken advantage of this lack of enforcement. Officers who patrol and residents who live in or frequent some of these volatile neighborhoods will tell you that the open air drug markets are flourishing, spurring unchecked violence between the factions fighting for control over the drugs, guns, and money.

The Union is calling for the Mayor and the Chief of Police to immediately reinstate district level vice units. Chief Lanier has stated that the spike in murders is caused by drugs, high capacity firearms, and now gambling. This is exactly the type of enforcement that the vice units were tasked with and successfully suppressed until they were disbanded earlier this year. We are calling for 100 members—10 to 12 officers per district, 1 sergeant, and 1 lieutenant—to be immediately detailed to a 90 day assignment to district vice offices. This would provide a rapid response and deployment to the most affected neighborhoods, directly addressing the violence and crime that is surging right now.

Of course the question is where these officers would come from, considering the Union has been highlighting the manpower issues in the department. But the current deployment strategies being employed are nothing short of an embarrassment and are not fooling anyone. Fixed posts, light towers, pop-up canopies? This city needs proactive policing, not scarecrows on the corner. At an evening roll call in the Seventh District last week, 22 assignments were given out, 18 were fixed posts—officers ordered to stand at a location and not move from it lest they be disciplined. The Union believes that a portion of these officers can be repurposed into district vice units to begin instantaneous interdiction of violence and start apprehending the persons responsible for these crimes.

Please stand with our officers and demand that enforcement and investigation of these crimes begin immediately. We have highly trained and motivated officers who want to protect your families and our communities. Tell Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier that you want effective policing in your neighborhood, not security guards.”

  • Mike

    This makes a lot of sense, and seems like a good experiment to see if we’ll get results. I think most would acknowledge that stationary MPD tents are easily averted…Where’s the petition? I’ll happily sign!

    • Eponymous

      There’s a “more officers” petition on the DC Police Union’s web site, but not one for vice.

      • anon

        The two issues are likely one in the same. Does anybody know why exactly the vice squads were disbanded anyway? Was it it a civil rights thing?

        • Eponymous

          Bowser and Lanier claimed it was meant to stop focusing on low-level dealers and go for the big guys. http://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-announces-comprehensive-drug-enforcement-strategy As if the two are mutually exclusive…

        • Anon

          This was done in light of the various civil rights-related offenses by police departments around the country, highlighted by the tragic events in Ferguson. MPD wanted to distance itself, or at least appear to do so, from the many police departments around the country causing blatant and willful civil rights violations. This was done as a way to avert focus/attention from the growing Black Lives Matter movement. “Hey, civil rights offenses aren’t an issue for the MPD!” I’d venture to agree there – they were doing a fairly good job of avoiding race-based offenses on the individual level.

          • neighbor

            So the logic is, that they get rid of the voice squad to avoid use of force complaints, the murder rate goes up by dozens, and somehow that shows “Black Lives Matter!”?

          • Anon

            That’s not how logic works, chief.

          • anon

            If this is actually a choice we have to make between respecting civil rights and being/feeling safer (as wealthy and mostly white residents), maybe it should be a more difficult decision than as is being posed by union and people here?
            I mean, there’s probably a middle ground, or something that could at least feel like a middle ground so we feel safer and/or less guilty. But either way, I think people are being a little cavalier since, you know, black lives DO matter and civil rights abuses among police ARE a real problem in this country.

    • Truxton Thomas

      Agree. This actually makes sense to me and is a good start. The administration’s synthetic marijuana bogeyman routine doesn’t and comes off as a convenient excuse.

  • brightwoodess

    I’d heard rumors that this was the case. Not knowing exactly how policing works, I’m looking toward the experts on this one. If Chief Lanier can honestly look residents in the eye and say that this is not a cause and effect, then I will believe her. However, this sounds pretty freaking compelling to me.

    • Xochipilli the Anonymous

      So you’re happy to believe her even if she’s blatantly lying or willingly misrepresenting the truth.

      • Krampus

        And how exactly would someone such as you, me, or brightwoodess know that?

        • xochipilli

          I don’t, but I don’t necessarily believe a word that comes out of her mouth, or any police officer’s mouth. Family members of mine are cops. Part of the profession is unrepentant lying; it’s expected of you, and even encouraged. The OP seemed to be saying that if Lanier makes a statement, they’d simply take it on faith that it is the truth.

  • ParkViewRes

    Does anyone remember when an officer posted on an article months ago about VICE being disbanded? It might have been AnonMPD, but anyway he warned that VICE was being disbanded and things were going to go from bad to worse…

    • Anonymous

      I had heard that from my favorite VICE officer. First they got moved from Ward 4 to Ward 8 (I think that was last summer), and then they eventually got disbanded. But I’m not an MPD source, just a fan of VICE.

  • Wyatt

    I think the Police Chief and Mayor are both overwhelmed at the amount of violence occurring in the District. In my opinion, Mayor Muriel Bowser will go down in history as the worse mayor of Washington, D.C. because all the violence is happening under her watch. DC residents, suburbanites, and visitors will throw the mayor under the bus. Why our Representative in Congress been silent on the violence taking place in the District? Several years ago, tourists were getting robbed on the Mall. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton was up in arms because she stated, we couldn’t have the tourists getting robbed near the Mall. D.C. Delegate Holmes-Norton called on MPD and federal law enforcement agencies to patrol the Mall area and protect the tourists. I thought to myself, does Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton care about D.C. residents being robbed, killed, rape, and shot?

    • dcd

      “In my opinion, Mayor Muriel Bowser will go down in history as the worse mayor of Washington, D.C. because all the violence is happening under her watch.”
      I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and guess that you are in your 20s, and moved to DC in the last 5 years?
      If there were one murder a day for the rest of the year, we would end 2015 with *fewer than half* the homicides DC had in 1990 and 1991. From 1988 through 1997, there were more than 300 homicides each year, and for 5 of those years, more than 400 (with roughly 50,000 fewer people then). It’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll crack 200 this year. Also, Marion Barry. (I realize you may not have been alive for much of the time he was in office, but history did not start when you graduated from high school.)
      A little context is important, and sense and knowledge of history is even more important when you start making grandiose statements about the “worst ever.”

      • Wyatt

        Sorry you are wrong, I am black and 55 years old, and I’m a native Washingtonian.

        • dcd

          Well then, as someone who lived through both Marion Barry mayoral sagas, I have no idea why you’d make such silly statements. You should know better. And since you also were here through the “DC is the murder capital of the work” era, claiming that Bowser is the “worst ever” because of the renewed violence is particularly ridiculous.
          Note – I am no Bowser apologist; I think she’s atrocious. But come on. Use your head.

          • Anon

            While I think there was a bit of hyperbole involved with the above statement, it IS unsettling to have such an uptick. Yes, this city was once murder capital, but we should be moving further away from that, we shouldn’t be backsliding. Crime is up and that’s even with police doing their damnedest to fudge the numbers. The makeup of the city is changing, and I’m sure it’s contributing to a lot of this (the fact that it’s happening, the fact that it’s getting more attention, etc) but we shouldn’t just be complicit. We still live here. This is still our home. I grew up here, I want my children to grow up here. I’m not ok with handing my city over to criminals while citing crime statistics from 30 years ago and rolling my eyes at yuppies.

        • Anonymous

          Why does it matter if you are black or not? Just curious

      • llucas


  • dat

    HOW do we show our support for this??

    • Anonymous Shaw Dweller

      See my “pending” comment below: all ANC’s need to adopt/support the 10-point gun violence/crime plan proposed by an ANC commissioner.

  • Anonymous

    We stand by you on this! How do we voice our support?

  • dcrez

    If anyone wants to call the Mayor’s office to express support with the Union the number is (202) 727-2643.

  • Anonymous Shaw Dweller

    There is a growing groundswell of support from the community of North Shaw and Logan Circle to reinstate the vice-squads. This along with 9 other points of gun violence/crime reform is what we all deserve. All ANC are asked to adopt the 10-point plan — https://www.popville.com/2015/08/its-only-gotten-worse-since-anc-rep-calls-on-the-mayor-to-implement-a-10-point-crime-plan/ — (proposed by an ANC commissioner), and send a strong message to the Mayor and our Council Members that decisive action must be taken now. No more mouthing this issue to death with no changes. Continue the pressure to adopt the 10-point plan!

    • SomePeopleOnThisSiteSheesh

      Ah yes, the plan that kicks off with “The Mayor should tell people that it’s OK to turn criminals in to the police, despite the decades-old and supremely powerful societal forces that have created the problem in the first place! If the Mayor just says so, people will forget all about the ‘no snitching’ culture.” Such a good set of ideas.

      • Anonymous Shaw Dweller

        What are your suggestions to make a dent into the “no snitching” culture?

  • Susan

    Is there a petition or something we sign to support this!

  • Thunder

    I’d like to see some proof about the effectiveness of vice squads. You know stuff like how many arrest per day, week, month, year. This crime wave started way before the disbanding of vice squads.

    • shmoo

      did it? I feel like they were disbanded in May/June. I know there was a bit of a bump up in crimes around Petworth in December/January but most of the really bad murders you hear about seem to have jumped out over the Summer months. Not trying to be argumentative, just wondering.

      • Anonymous

        I think they haven’t been operating in Ward 4 for about a year now.

        • shmoo

          which would make sense as it took a few months after they stopped operating for the bad element to start taking advantage, as they have now in other areas of the city.

          Interesting. I am down for VICE getting back into it.

        • Anonymous

          They’ve been disbanded in ward 4 for quite awhile. I think since last Februrary? Maybe earlier. It wasn’t advertised. I’m tired of the lip service. I want results whether it’s public intoxication or assaults. Just arrest people for pete’s sake!

          • Anon

            Yea, please… for the sake of Pete’s everywhere, please start wantonly arresting people Oprah-style. YOU get arrested, and YOU get arrested, and YOU get arrested. EVERYONE gets arrested!

      • Anonymous2

        Crime rates typically go up in the summer months, so that’s something to take into account. That said, I’m all in favor of reinstating VICE units. The types of crime being committed are markedly different, and I don’t want to wait until the season changes and hope that crime goes down. I moved into the H Street area two years ago and feel far less safe than I used to.

        • Agreed

          I’ve lived in DC for 13 years (including Shaw before all the development, Carver-Langston and most recently H St). This is the first time I’ve actually felt unsafe. Maybe it was a false sense of security before, but something feels very different about the sort of crime that has been happening of late.

    • neighbor

      First of all I completely support reinstatement of vice squads.
      Second, statistics like these: “You know stuff like how many arrest per day, week, month, year.” are exactly the problem with policing. Arrests per period is not a great statistics for the effectiveness of law enforcement. Effective departments will have a nearly crime free city and arrest almost nobody. Ineffective departments arrest people constantly.

      • Anonymous

        Please point me to a “nearly crime free” major city where almost nobody gets arrested.

        • neighbor

          Not sure if this is a troll or a pedant but this is obviously true. Minneapolis has much lower per officer arrest rates than Camden. Does that mean Camden are more effective police?
          Low crime cities effectively deter crime from being committed in the first place. Focusing too much on single numbers that don’t really tell the whole story is how we got sh*tty policing in the first place.

        • Dan

          Most cites in Europe have much less crime, and far fewer arrests.

          Incarceration is not nearly as prevalent in European countries, and yet they still have less crime per capita.


          • markus

            No.. come on… you’re not really trying to imply that…. no, you can’t be that thick…

      • anonymusssssss

        Wise words. +1

    • FormerDelRay

      On one hand, I think data and studies are good. On the other, the call for data before making a decision often feels like a red herring, put forward by people who simply want to kill something while appearing to take the high road. I’m not accusing you of that personally in this situation, btw. It’s just a statement that I’m never quite sure what to make of.


      +1 Crime was already WAY up before the VICE squads were disbanded. Crime always jumps in the summer, even with VICE in full force. Summer increase is not directly related to the disbanding of VICE squads, just conveniently coincidental for the officers who prefer to be badasses undercover than fully uniformed.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Disbanding the vice units may not be a satisfactory explanation for the increase in violent crime, but summer sure ain’t a satisfactory description either. We’re on track to top last year’s total homicide count before we reach September. Summer happened last year, too, didn’t it?

      • Anonymous2

        I merely said that summer crime rates are something to take into account in terms of the peak in violence. I am well aware that DC crime rates were up before this summer. To clarify, I do not think a peak in summer crime rates should sway our decision to not reinstate vice units (I thought I had made that clear in my post, but apparently not). I attended AU and am directly impacted by the murder of two of my peers, so I’m one of the last people who needs convincing.

  • FormerDelRay

    Ideally, a group of people would stand on street corners, educate the public and gather signatures. Doing things live (instead of virtually) also gets media and political attention. I’d be happy to pound the pavement with others, but I don’t want to do it alone.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know enough about policing to say whether this is a good idea. But if the spike in crime really did start when this policy was changed (and this should be easily verifiable), that change should be revisited.

    But there has been a constant clamor for a more visible police presence, and taking officers out of plainclothes and putting them in a uniform increases the visible police presence – which hopefully is a deterrent. So the question is whether people are going to complain if this policy gets changed and the number of uniformed officers decreases to allow for more officers to work in plainclothes vice units.

  • Greazy

    Sounds like they also need to institute a “spice Unit”

  • Keefer

    This would be great, how do we get it done. Just last night I was talking to a 3 district officer and saying that this needed to be done, he whole heartedly agreed so did has every officer I have spoke to in the past month, stopped consistently seeing vice in the neighborhood last fall and in that time winter to now my neighborhood has gotten a lot less safe. I agree with whoever commented above that Boce isn’t necessarily about arrest numbers it is about putting some fear back in the minds of criminals that they may not get away with openly dealing, because they can’t count on seeing a marked car and simply shutting it down.

  • iloveshaw

    There is this petition available, not sure if it is outdated but it is in support of the police union: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-bowser-make-dc-safer-in-2015

    • jdegg

      I just signed.

  • DCres

    Thank you MPD union for offering proactive solutions! Maybe the mayor could learn a thing or two.

    I support this.

  • Jack Stevens

    Dan, do you have the right link, I would imagine at least 5000 of your readers would sign this in under a week

  • Anonymous

    Imagine my surprise when 6 months ago I begged for MPD to look into a drug house in Ward 4 and was told “we don’t have a vice unit anymore”, but they’d “put in a request.” Nothing happened. Nothing ever happens with MPD. All they do is respond to listserv messages and hold community meetings. Enough is enough. Where is the accountability?

  • anon


  • anon

    What we really need to do is hire Michael Chiklis and the Strike Team.

  • Eponymous

    There some really prescient stuff from some (self-identified) MPD cops in this post. https://www.popville.com/2014/12/note-from-a-frustrated-resident-to-mayor-elect-bowser-regarding-crime/ The higher-ups should have seen this coming.

    • Anonymous

      Actually what this shows is that every year there is some point at which someone can say there has been an “uptick” in crime.

      • Accountering

        No, the facts and numbers back up the assertion that there has been an uptick in crime this year. Both YTD, and during the summer. More shootings, more murders, and more gun crime.

  • The OP Anon

    I remember seeing Vice constantly in the area just north of U Street and Columbia Heights. They were plain clothes and drove around the neighborhood in an unmarked Impala or Crown Vic. You could always tell it was Vice because it was usually a group of burly guys (all manner of ethnic backgrounds) with bullet proof vest under their tshirts just sitting around in a car, waiting to get a call. I saw them do a few “jump outs” on people drinking in public or generally causing a ruckus and it was interesting to see them take people by surprise. Sometimes they would be waiting a halfway down the block from a problematic intersection, just waiting for people to start some crap.
    This summer? I haven’t seen Vice even once. No patrols and no jump outs. I think petty street criminals are getting more brazen because they know Vice is no longer around to jump out on them unexpectedly.

    • jcm

      You haven’t seen them because they were disbanded. They were disbanded because those jump outs you enjoyed watching are often illegal warrantless searches based on racial profiling. It was DC’s version of stop and frisk, and after Ferguson it started to get some attention from the Council, so Lanier ended it.

      • CRT

        Searches of persons don’t require warrants. In fact, I doubt there has ever been a warranted search of a person in American history.

      • Anonymous

        Oh, cut the BS. @The OP Anon is right. Corner thugs acting with impunity since they can easily spot all cops in their cruiser. I’ve actually talked to a few in the neighborhood that I know. They used to have some concern about Vice, now it’s “full and open!” As one cornerboy said to me

      • Anon MPD

        So this may seem like semantics, but these aren’t searches. These are frisks of outer garments and waist bands for weapons. And this is also called police work. Where the wheels fall off the wagon are where we use frisks as a number or data point, which then we want to get more of. And so you get ordered to frisk more people to show activity, which is dumb.

        Make no mistake, people are carrying guns because they know that they aren’t going to be stopped.

        • Anony

          And most of us are fully behind you doing what you need to do to get them off the streets! Thank you Anon MPD and your fellow officers!

  • Statehood Warrior

    Is the current epidemic of murders, robberies and assaults at the point where calling up some units of the National Guard and deploying them in high crime areas – not in full on battle gear, obviously – would make sense? Can we just stand by and watch our fellow residents being gunned down? Really heartsick about what’s going on.

  • KimStiens

    I’m not at all convinced by this. Jump-outs are the worst, and if the problem is drugs, putting more people in jail is at best a short-term solution that will cause more long-term harm. I worry that we all say #blacklivesmatter until it actually involves us trying something totally different, and then we just revert to whatever will temporarily get the “thugs” out of our line of vision without actually creating long-term better results. Not saying this is a bad idea, I’m no expert, but it’s setting off a lot of alarms in my mind.

    • Trinidaddy

      They’re the worst? You know what’s even worse? The stupid crime wave we are having. The 90+ homicides, surpassing our last year’s total at the same time by at least 20. The robberies, the assaults, the roving gangs of youths roaming around causing havoc. I appreciate your kumbaya equality fairness desires but give me a break.

      • PewPew

        Exactly, bring back the jump outs. They were targets for a reason. Criminals should live in fear of the police.

        • Anon

          At the risk of ALL people who vaguely resemble the criminals’ phenotype living in constant fear of the police? Because that’s how it tends to work in practice.

    • PewPew

      Exactly you are no expert. The tactic worked. This is not the worst, it was effective policing. It is time we stopped listening to the whiny bastards who want to revert our city back to a crime ridden slum.

  • Tslupngo

    Hopefully they can bust some of those addicts by the CoHi metro

  • dcd

    I’m all for bringing the vice units back. However, from a political standpoint, this is a big gamble by the union. If Lanier DOES bring the units back, people are going to expect results. The union better be right about this.

    • Bloomingdalian

      It’s political suicide to continue with the status quo. Cutting ribbons on new development is fruitless in the long term if DC gets labeled unsafe again.

      • dcd

        Wow, you totally missed the point.

  • JL

    I would be all for this. Totally agree. Bring on the vice squads.

  • I’m all for binging back the vice squads to all of the neighborhoods AND let’s hire more officers to fill all of the attrition/retirements. Bowser did not mention anything today at her presser about how the city is short 500 officers.

  • I am in total agreement that the vice unit must be reinstated to curtail the spike in crime before innocent people are murdered. Also, the office of the AG must bear some of this cause for they will not prosecute the young thugs that commit yoke crimes, hijacking and other kind of crimes. Plus they will arbitrary dis miss crimes against these young thugs allowing them to continue with their criminal ways free of charges.

    • PewPew

      The AG is totally to blame as well. Violent crime should equal tons of hard time. No leniency for those involved in any violent crime.

      • Xochipilli the Anonymous

        No no no, your idea is entirely too reasonable, pragmatic and effective to be seriously considered. Away with you, you overly reasonable Pew Pew!

  • Jack Stevens

    I was told by a friend today (second hand info) that at least one of the AG’s locally blames the disbanding of the Vice Units on the dramatic rise in crime. I understand it would be convenient for me to just say this to support the discussion, but I have no reason to doubt this friend as I was simply pointing to a park that had open air drug dealing (in the middle of Chinatown) and he offered up the info unsolicited. We need OUR vice cops back and now. Forget all hands on deck, just get ALL vice on deck. BTW, maybe each vice cop could get $2500 a gun and $25,000 a murder solved…??? Then all the cops would want to work for DC….SMH

    • Xochipilli the Anonymous

      There is a PARK in the middle of CHINATOWN!?!?!?

      • Jack Stevens

        6th and Mass, its called chinatown park or reservation 72.

  • PewPew

    I agree with the police union here. This needs to be done immediately. Also bring back the jump outs, they worked.

    • Anonymous

      +1 clean this sh#! Up

  • Anonymous

    Seriously, sections of Georgia Ave are beginning to resemble Hamsterdam from the wire

    • jdegg

      I started watching The Wire again last week, and it was way too close for real life. Yeah, Hamsterdam.

      • Anony

        Makes you appreciate the sometimes crappy and often dangerous work police have to endure.

  • Xochipilli the Anonymous

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Positively DRACONIAN Federal laws need to be passed for nation’s capitol that involve either LIFE without parole – or better yet, and preferably, execution – for individuals found guilty of….

    1. Felony assault; attempt to commit felony assault.
    2. Financial crimes of any sort involving gross amounts of $50K or above.
    3. Sexual assault.
    4. Possession or distribution of unlicensed firearms.
    5. Aiding and abetting any of these crimes.
    6. Animal cruelty.
    7. Possession, distribution, manufacturing of child pornography.

  • say what

    I strongly recommend that everyone who has taken the time to post on this also send an email to your Councilmember, copy Mendleson and specficially ask where they stand on reinstating the vice squads and increasing the number of police officers. Tell them you will post their responses on the neigbhorhood listserves. I find this to be an effective way to get a response, even if it is a bullshit response. They need to be accountable and let the voters know where they stand.

  • lou

    I noticed that the corner of H St and 8th St NE has been getting pretty obvious as far as drug dealing is concerned. It’s always been a busy corner because it’s the link of some major bus lines, so crowds aren’t the concern. But if I (as a naive person who has seen little crime) can tell that dealing is going on, well….perhaps it’s time bring the vice squads back.

  • say what

    send an email today!


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