Friday, June 24, 2011
Judiciary Hearing a debacle covering MPD Escorts for various celebrities
The District of Columbia, Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety clearly did not have their best day yesterday. Chairman Phil Mendelson conducted an oversight hearing as a tool to investigate the recent media frenzy about escorts for notable “star” Charlie Sheen and others. I commend Chairman Mendelson for this action. But have to also ask, where was Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser? Missing in Action, as were the other members. This should be a great concern to every member of this community. This committee is designed to oversee the public safety in our community, and the District of Columbia. At no time should there be such a hearing without those sitting members present.
Bowser’s absence demonstrates a lack of concern and in my opinion that concern relates directly to Ward 4’s safety and representation on this vastly important committee. Does she take this committee assignment lightly? Only she can answer this.
The portion of this hearing that every resident should be concerned with is the allowance of Commander Hilton Burton being allowed to offer testimony on his own. While other members of the Metropolitan Police Department of various ranks were formally requested to testify by the committee, Burton on his own showed up to offer his own opinion. Not the official position of the Department or his Division. This was both unprofessional, and borders on an offense that in most jurisdictions would merit termination. In private industry, he would already have been shown the door. This weakness in over all policy and failure of our council mandate must be addressed.
The situation demonstrated a failure in many areas but most importantly Chairman Mendelson when asked told me that Burton was not in uniform. I asked was he on duty and was he essentially being paid to be on his job while sitting in front of a council committee covering police in the very department he works in. Cmdr. Hilton Burton has a sordid past as many of you will remember. He is the former Commander of the 4th District and left with a whirlwind of allegations, some substantiated with emails and phone records. He was accused and proven to have misused his use of his police email, his cruiser and other things associated with his responsibility and rank. There were allegations that he had received oral sex in the police cruiser on the banks of the river, by a less than desirable female. On more than one occasion, there were witnesses that came forward and complained on the Commander. There seemed to be no doubt that he was involved in these relationships and clearly had not acted professionally, much less conduct becoming a police officer.
Chairman Mendelson should never have allowed Burton to have appeared in the capacity he presented himself in. Where was the checks and balance to the system for this committee hearing? Where were the other members of this committee during this hearing?
Commander Burton demonstrated a low level of weakness in his knowledge both with his prepared statement and his inability to answer the follow up questions of Mendelson. He clearly is not in command of the proper direction of the department he commands, and the man power assigned to him. He is far less than we should expect and demand in a command level ranking member of the MPD. Burton’s insistence that there was no clear policy was totally disputed by supported documentation and many pages of back up from Chief Lanier. She was on top of her game and in clear control of the policy and her ability to relate that police to Chairman Mendelson. She quoted many occasions that past Chiefs of Police, and other command officials have had in place, and that continued to be in place until the revised policy was written and implemented in April 2011. Burton is clearly confused, out of touch and looking for excuses at a time Burton has openly demonstrated he vulnerable at best now. Having previously been demoted for his actions unbecoming, and bad judgment, Chief Lanier promoted him and put him in Command of Special Operations Division. He has now blown this opportunity with poor oversight, and unfounded allegations about the lack of policy.
Chris Baumann in his normal cantankerous and misplaced approach to policing 101 is again a flaw in the system at best. A Johnny- come-lately attorney specializing in finances (?) he serves as the Chair of the labor Committee for the Police Union is clearly mistaken in his identity and purpose. This man doesn’t know what it is to work a beat, ride a scooter, or show up for roll call. He draws too salaries for doing little of nothing on either job. Can we just make him go away and play in a sand box somewhere? He reminds me of an angry child that can’t go out of the yard so he looks around to find something to complain about everything he can catch in his view.
We should all be glad that Chief Lanier and her top senior command staff are all there to safeguard this city’s safety. I feel bad that she was put through this waste of time and to have had a subordinate show up with reason or merit. I hope that Mendelson and every member of the Judicial Committee will put into place a policy that would prevent such testimony as the one given by Burton in the future. This committee should be obligated to first go to the Chief and her staff before allowing a mindless demoted, policy braking lower level employee to show up and fully demonstrate his lack of thoroughness and integrity. We have work to be done here, and yesterday wasn’t the best example of good solid oversight. Let’s put this mess to bed, and allow this Chief of Police to continue her great job.
Posted by Ward 4 at 11:53 AM