Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Police admit mistakes in handling party house in Bowie

Officers' off-duty behavior deemed inappropriate, under inquiry by department

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Four Prince George's County police officers could face repercussions including suspensions or fines for inappropriate conduct while providing off-duty security last month at a Bowie house known for problematic parties, a district commander said.

When residents called to complain about a July 6 party at 13227 Mockingbird Lane, the off-duty officers providing security for the party told supervisors they handled the problems, said Maj. Anita Rosser, commander of the District 2 police station, as she apologized for the department's blunders at a community forum Tuesday night.

"There was a problem in the way the whole situation was handled," she said.

Residents said the officers ignored their complaints of illegal parking, loud music, drunk and disorderly conduct and illegal drink sales at the party, telling them to go home.

"We asked for their help and we were shunned and the party was protected," said resident Cheryl Graeve.

Police would not identify the officers involved as inquiries into the matter are ongoing, but Rosser said none were from District 2.

"If they had been District 2 officers I would have been thoroughly embarrassed up here apologizing to you and they would have been up here with me," Rosser said before the residents gathered at the Huntington Community Center.

The District 2 police and several other county organizations, including the Department of the Environment, had been watching the house for two weeks prior to the party after the initial complaints were made over a previous weekend bash. Homeowner Daniel Ofei caught flak from neighbors for a June party that they claim blasted loud music through the neighborhood and attracted hundreds of people who blocked roadways and left trash in their yards.

County Police Inspector General Mark Spencer said he expects the department to look into the communication breakdown that allowed officers from other police districts to work at a location identified as problematic by District 2. Officers from all districts are now banned from working at the house, Rosser said.

"What should happen is that those officers will be questioned about whether they followed proper protocol to have secondary employment," Spencer said of the inquiries into officers' behavior. "The policy is quite clear. This doesn't sound like an issue with the policy but with adherence to our standards and our rules."

Current policies involving secondary employment require prior approval to work at a specific location and officers must notify the police operations desk when they will be working. Spencer said the department does get occasional complaints stemming from officers' behavior while working off-duty security jobs but the larger problem regarding secondary employment is enforcing the reporting of that employment. He did not know whether this case would prompt any department-wide changes regarding enforcement.

Residents at the Tuesday night meeting said they were relieved police were looking into the matter and that there have been no more large parties held by Ofei since July 6.

"It seems to be on the right track," said resident Echo Uzzo.

Ofei previously said he was done hosting parties at the house but declined to comment Wednesday, forwarding questions to an attorney.

Graeve said she would remain "optimistically hopeful" that the police had put an end to the large parties but that she would continue to work with other county agencies to monitor complaints and investigations.

Rosser said activity at the house was still being monitored and asked residents to report any suspicious behavior by calling the non-emergency line at 301-333-4000 or the District 2 station at 301-390-2100.

"If you are going to be a nuisance in our community one of two things is going to happen. They are going to get straight or they are going to move out," Rosser said.

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