Seven Washington, D.C., police officers and supervisors are under investigation after confiscating illegal guns while allowing the suspect to go free, according to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III.
During a Friday press conference, Contee stated, “In these cases, the suspect was not arrested, and the suspect should’ve been arrested.”
“The firearm was taken and placed into evidence, however, the suspect was allowed to go free, and that’s just not the way that we conduct business in the Metropolitan Police Department,” he explained.
The probe into the alleged misconduct was initiated after an unrelated Sept. 11 complaint against D.C. officers was made by a community member, Contee told the press. It was during the investigation of that complaint that officials heard about two officers who took an illegal gun from a suspect and failed to make an arrest.
“During our internal review of body-worn camera footage, we discovered a prior incident that was unrelated to the community member making the complaint that involved misconduct,” Contee said. “Specifically, from our preliminary investigation, two officers had confiscated an illegal firearm from a suspect without making an arrest.”
“It is unclear why no arrest was made,” he continued. “From what we have learned, the officers had probable cause to make an arrest and they did not, nor did they pursue an arrest warrant afterwards.”
“While the guns were properly accounted for and placed in evidence,” Contee stated, “the officers’ version in the police report is inconsistent with the body-worn camera footage associated with the seizure.”
“In essence,” he summarized, “an illegal firearm was removed from an armed suspect, and the suspect was allowed to walk away without consequence of arrests or officers securing an arrest warrant.”
The two officers were placed on leave while officials continued reviewing the incident. In doing so, they discovered that an additional five department members had been involved in similar situations, all within the 7th District.
In total, two sergeants and five officers were placed on non-contact and administrative leave status.
Why the alleged misconduct occurred is a mystery to the police chief.
“I can’t even speculate as to why that is,” Contee said. “That’s not the way that we train, it’s not the way that I’ve been trained, it’s not what we expect of our members.”
“We expect our members that when they encounter armed individuals on the street who are in possession of illegal firearms that those people are taken into custody,” he said. “In these cases, that did not happen.”
“I wish I could tell you why,” he told reporters. “At this stage of the investigation, I don’t know why.”
The seven involved MPD members were part of a violent crime unit in the 7th District, which includes the neighborhoods of Anacostia, Barry Farm, Naylor Gardens and Washington Highlands.
According to Contee, the remaining members of the unit have been reassigned, pending the results of the ongoing investigation.
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