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Office of Police Complaints Executive Director Sends Letter to D.C. Police Chief Addressing the Lack of Discipline of D.C. Police Officers

Friday, March 25, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Michael G. Tobin, executive director of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) sent the following letter today to D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III about Chief’s Contee’s failure to issue discipline for Metropolitan Police Department officers in verified complaints of police misconduct investigated by OPC:

Robert J. Contee III
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
441 4th Street, NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Chief Contee:

Today, I received your discipline determination for a case in which misconduct was committed by one of your officers. After notifying the complainant that you planned to discipline the officer with adverse action, you did not issue any discipline in the case and instead utilized a PD 62-E, which is merely a form intended to be used by supervisors to document observations of a subordinate’s job-related behaviors and does not constitute corrective action as defined by your department policy. In fact, a review of all of the complaints referred to you for discipline from our office reveals that you have not issued a single suspension without pay since your confirmation as chief of the department.

The Office of Police Complaints and the Police Complaints Board, the civilian board appointed by the Mayor and DC Council to investigate and make determinations of misconduct, are mandated to forward verified complaints of misconduct to you to issue discipline. We have forwarded verified complaints of excessive force, harassment, language and conduct, and other matters after conducting an extensive investigation and subsequent review by an independent complaint examiner. Nevertheless, since your confirmation as chief you have failed to issue a single suspension without pay to any officer in any case of misconduct that we have forwarded to you. In addition, in at least four cases of misconduct referred to you for discipline you have failed to issue any corrective action, contrary to DC law and your own department policy.

We have called attention to this issue every year in our annual report analysis of disciplines issued by your department. In addition, on October 14, 2020, the Police Complaints Board issued Policy Report 21-2 “Discipline” in which the civilian board proposed a method to correct the inequities of our current system.

The failure of your office to take seriously the complaints of police misconduct from members of our community continues a trend that has been followed by virtually all of your predecessor chiefs since the current governing statute was first enacted. This trend has directly contributed to a lack of accountability and community mistrust of MPD. Our current system of civilian oversight is clearly not as effective as it should be. Particularly with citizen complaints, MPD has demonstrated on repeated occasions over many years and several police chiefs that the department is not willing or able to provide proper accountability of its members.

By copy of this letter, I am relaying my concerns to the DC Council.

References: PCB Policy Report #21-2 “Discipline”

Sincerly,

Michael G. Tobin
Executive Director