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“Dying is not against the law per se.”

by Prince Of Petworth November 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm 16 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jordan Barab

Ed. Note: I don’t mean to make light of this situation because it is a very serious one and a very frustrating one for the neighbors. Having said that, the final MPD response is one of the greatest I’ve ever read…

A resident inquired what MPD will do about a troubled house after a corpse was found on a porch in Petworth/Brightwood Park:

“Just heard a corpse was found on the porch this am???????!?!

Are we reaching an actionable point?”

MPD responded:

“All life is precious and I feel a certain way about simply referring to this person that was once someone’s baby as a corpse and in some way a reason for MPD to take police action. Everyone has a right to their life.

If it is determined that the cause of death was other than natural, our investigative unit will do their job throughly.”

Another resident wrote:

“Feel free to stop by. They are still removing the body. Her dealer was on the block last night”

MPD responded:

“Dying is not against the law per se.”

  • Anon Spock

    Sucks for the neighbors, but no crime has been committed simply because someone died. They referenced the dealer; maybe she oded?

  • shmoo

    Is this in reference to the house in the 300 block of gallatin? The one where the people were using a gas generator for power and were pooping in the backyard?

  • Petworther

    Wait. Is mpd both refusing to work to eliminate the conditions that led to someone’s death and calling the person who wants it investigated callous? I can’t even begin to understand the cognitive dissonance required to take that position.

    • Anon Spock

      The medical examiner determines cause of death, so there is nothing for mpd to do in that regard.
      Mpd is saying simply there is nothing for them to do yet since they haven’t received confirmation that foul play occurred.

      • Petworther

        So someone dies at a known drug house, and saying “we don’t give a sh*t unless the ME tells us to” is SOP at MPD. That’s why criminals basically run free in this city. Be pro-f*cking-active. Somebody just died. I imagine the circumstances surrounding the body were at least somewhat demonstrative. Try to figure it out. Solve crime.
        And to have the gall to suggest that a citizen expecting policing have a suspicious death at a known drug house is somehow callous? Unbelievable.

        • Anon Spock

          Yes, likely demonstrative of an overdose which isn’t usually a crime. You said it yourself it’s a known drug haven. They absolutely should investigate that fact, but a dead body alone does not a crime make nor does it give them much to search for absent obvious trauma to the body.

          What’s suspicious about the death exactly? Maybe you have more info than me, but I see a lady is dead on a porch…That’s it. In a similar vein, the only thing mpd seemed to mind is the use of corpse.

          It is sop for every police force unless there is something obvious to show a crime occurred to the person. Your indignation may be better placed at the drug house operating in the first place.

          • eggs

            “an overdose which isn’t usually a crime” – what? If it’s an overdose of illegal drugs…yes, yes it is. Obviously the decedent can’t be prosecuted, but the people who were around them at the time could also be held somewhat liable for failing to get them medical attention if they knew they needed it. It would also be enough (I’d think) for the police to obtain a warrant to search the house the person died in.

          • anon

            I believe we are trying to decriminalize drug use. ODing is not a crime. Failure to assist while ODing would maybe be a civil suit against a doctor–not a crime. This situation does not need MPD, they do need someone to go in and teach all the other locals in the drug house about NARCAN.

    • TinkerTaylor

      I’m perplexed about several things. Such as why someone’s personal feeling about when it’s ok to use the word corpse is part of MPD communication. Or when it’s ok in this person’s view to begin to refer to a dead body as a corpse. Or why MPD communication about why it’s not appropriate for them to respond has to be buried under this right to life language.

      I’m not suggesting that we do not have a right to life (see Preamble to the Declaration of Independence), but what an odd communication from MPD.

      • ah

        I read it differently. The message from the person seemed to be aimed at stirring up police investigation (perhaps justified). The MPD response was basically “(1) have some respect for the dead person; (2) a dead body doesn’t necessarily mean a crime has been committed; (3) we’ll take action if there’s evidence of a crime.”

        The follow-up was basically a restatement of point #2 – MPD responder seemed to think the original poster was trying gin up an investigation where perhaps none was warranted, and being a bit flip.

        Anyway, it seems that having any public official, especially one who may not have spent most of his/her career refining their written prose, is dangerous because there’s always someone who wants to take issue with what was written.

        Before Twitter, Facebook, and forums this probably would have been a conversation between an hysteric neighbor on the street and a tired cop:

        – Yo, 5-0 you gotta do something – people are dying
        – Yeah, but all we’ve got is a body and can’t tell if that’s because of a crime. We’ll look into it.
        – Come on, MPD.
        – I said we’d look into it.

        • DC

          But what was disrespectful about the person’s email that prompted point number 1? Would it be any better if they had said “a dead body,” which is, after all, a corpse? Isn’t the person essentially chiding the MPD for not addressing a known problem until it escalates to the point that someone lost their life? I agree with TinkerTaylor. It could very well be that there’s nothing actionable here, but this response is very strangely written and, as someone who has worked in government my whole career, I find it inappropriate in the way it is passing judgment on a citizen whose trying to get a serious problem resolved without taking any apparent steps to address the problem or even acknowledge it. It’s so bizzarely phrased, that first part is essentially: you are a rude and unfeeling person for A) referring to someone’s dead body as a corpse and not respecting life and B) expecting MPD to do something about said loss of life. The contradiction inherent in the phrasing and tone of this is staggering. (Note: that doesn’t mean there is anything for MPD to do, just that putting these two ideas together in this context without justification is so, so, odd.)

          • textdoc

            Agreed. It’s like MPD is trying to distract people from the real problem (a known “problem house,” MPD inactivity) by taking issue with someone’s word choice.

  • dcd

    Outside of what might have happened to the deceased, the only crime I see here is the MPD representative’s assault on the English language. I know we’re not supposed to criticize grammar (though that may not apply here), but come on. It’s borderline illiterate, and gives the impression that MPD is run by teenagers in dire need of a remedial writing class. Not exactly projecting the competence we want from the police.

    • ah

      Perhaps it’s run by adults in dire need of a remedial writing class.

      The typical career path to police officer doesn’t typically run though a liberal arts college.

      • dcd

        They graduated from high school, right?

  • U Streeter

    Read this and the prior post about 3xx Gattatin St. – Oof. Trying to think about what I would do.
    Just horrible situation – I feel for neighbor.
    I mean, asking if dead body means have reached actionable point – pretty measured under the circumstances.
    If I were in neighbor’s shoes, about 9 years and 9 months ago the body would have either been mine, or exhibit A at my trial.
    (Not advocating violence – I’m just saying, this situation, combined with the pathetic “sorry but not my problem and we can’t find anyone to make it their problem, come back later” response from the government would have drivin me insane long ago.)


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