DC Councilman Considers Removing Special Police Officer Complaints From MPD After I-Team Investigation

A D.C. councilman is considering legislation to change the way complaints against special police officers are handled in the District.

The move comes after several residents told the News4 I-Team they had troubling encounters with the same special police officer but were turned away by the Metropolitan Police Department when they tried to file complaints.

"We need it to be easy, straightforward, transparent," said Councilman Charles Allen.

Allen wants to shift the responsibility for those investigations from MPD's Security Officers Management Branch to the District's Office of Police Complaints, an independent D.C. agency that already investigates accusations of misconduct by MPD officers and Housing Authority Police officers.

"It's part of what helps make sure that residents have confidence and trust in the oversight and accountability of those people that we grant these powers to to help police us," Allen said.

MPD grants special police officers a license to carry a gun and make arrests on the property they're assigned to protect. Right now, a division of MPD is also tasked with handling complaints against those officers and any required discipline.

Allen, who chairs the D.C. Council Oversight Committee for Judiciary and Public Safety, says when residents think they've been treated wrongly by any officer, they should always be able to complain- and have it taken seriously.

"If it's confusing for an oversight body, it's probably pretty confusing for a resident," Allen said. "And we need to make sure it's very clear so that we have accountability and transparency."

D.C.'s Office of Police Complaints often investigates officers' use of force and allegations of wrongful arrest, both of which residents and guests of the Frederick Douglass Garden Apartments allege in recent incidents. Several were captured on cellphone video by friends and family of those being arrested.

"I can't feel my wrist;- my hand is turning numb," Anton Reid can be heard yelling to the officer in one of the videos. Reid says he was visiting his girlfriend who lives in the apartment complex when Officer John Simon tried to remove and ban him from the property.

When prosecutors later dismissed Reid's charges of assault and unlawful entry, he says he filed a complaint against Simon at the Security Officers Management Branch of MPD. When he went back to retrieve a copy of his complaint, he says he was told there was nothing on file.

"I called back to follow up — no answers," Reid said.

Tawonna Bunn, who lives in the apartment complex, said Simon arrested her downstairs in the management office while she was trying to file a complaint against him. Simon and another officer had come to her apartment to remove her girlfriend and pepper-sprayed Bunn and her guests.

Bunn says Simon also punched her but later accused her of assaulting him, and she spent a night in jail. Prosecutors dismissed her charge, but she told the I-Team MPD refused to hear her complaint against the officer.

"I couldn’t file a complaint. I couldn't make nothing because I got arrested," Bunn said.

Neither the officer nor the company he worked for would answer the I-Team's questions about those incidents. The security company is owned by former MPD officers.

"I think as residents we look to our police to help be responsive to us in our times of need. We want to have trust and confidence in them," Allen said. "And if there is an officer that is not providing that ... then we need ways to hold them accountable."

The Office of Police Complaints and MPD are both going through the city's budget process right now. Allen says he's researching whether it's feasible to move the complaint process and how many extra investigators that would require.

The I-Team filed a Freedom of Information request last December asking for the total number of complaints filed against special police officers in recent years and specifically against Simon and the security company for which he worked.

Nearly four months later, MPD said the I-Team's request is still "under review."

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper, and edited by Jeff Piper.

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