DC police chief, mayor defend controversial search of several men outside Northeast DC barber shop
WASHINGTON - An ANC commissioner and D.C.'s police chief are at odds over a video of a police search that was captured outside a Northeast D.C. barber shop last Wednesday.
The video was recorded outside of Nook's Barbershop on Sheriff Road and shows the D.C. Police Gun Recovery Unit talking to and allegedly searching several men who were standing outside.
In the video, a man in a white t-shirt can be seen with his hands up. The people shooting the video suspect him of being an undercover cop.
Police said the man was questioned by the officers after a BB gun was found in his possession. After questioning, the officers allowed him to leave.
That is when the officers in the Gun Recovery Unit told the men standing outside the barber shop that they now had probable cause to search them for illegal guns and asked to see their waistbands.
ANC commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green called this incident a violation of constitutional rights by a "gang force" of officers.
However, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Mayor Muriel Bowser both defended the officers' actions on Monday.
"We frequently get complaints in that area about people out there smoking marijuana, drinking - that kind of thing," said Newsham. "The police went up there, they found a BB gun. It wasn't an undercover officer. It was just a guy that was up there who had a BB gun in his waistband and they continued to search the area for potentially additional weapons in that area. We are going to take a close look at the body-worn cameras to see if there was any inappropriate behavior by our officers."
"We are committed to treating all of our residents fairly," Bowser said. "The police are committed to constitutional policing and we are committed to getting guns off the street. Our officers are going to be vigilant."
However, Green said police terrorize the young men who gather outside the barber shop and believes the man with the BB gun was a plant who may have been working with the police. He said no one knew the man before he wandered into the neighborhood and was stopped by the police.
"If there were young men smoking in front of this shop, why didn't they find any drugs? Why didn't they find any guns? Why is the only young man they found anything on is the young man they allowed to walk away down the sidewalk and hop into a vehicle?" Green questioned. "I'm not trustful of the information that we are receiving from the chief because it seems like the chief is trying to make up every excuse or trying to bide his time to really figure out how can I explain this situation. If these things were going on, why was no one arrested?"
The ACLU was in the neighborhood asking questions and gathering information on Monday.
Chief Newsham said they sometimes get criticized for over-enforcing some of the minor offenses that occur in the city and an officer made a discretionary decision to identify the man and let him walk away.
The police chief said they will do an investigation to see if all of the pat-downs and searches were legal.