Washington, D.C., police make far more arrests per capita for the offense of “disorderly conduct” than do police in other large cities, reports a watchdog agency that said officers sometimes use the charge improperly. The Washington Post says the Citizen Complaint Review Board that found that people sometimes are arrested for being profane or rude to the police. One man asked an officer who was giving his fiancee a parking ticket if police “had nothing better to do.” The officer followed the man back inside a store and arrested him for disorderly conduct, explaining that the man was being locked up for “running his mouth.”
“I don’t see evidence that there is more disorderly conduct in D.C.,” said Philip K. Eure, executive director of the Office of Citizen Complaint Review. “We do see evidence here that officers do not understand or are ignoring the disorderly conduct law.”
Under law in the capital, “disorderly conduct” can apply to a wide variety of actions, including making loud noises at night and blocking a public street. The report showed that in 2000, D.C. police made 1,853 arrests for disorderly conduct per 100,000 residents. The average was 303 in cities with populations over 250,000.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who oversees the 3,600-member police department, said the report showed “another serious training and supervision issue.” Police responded that behavior that counts as disorderly in Washington may be classified under another offense category elsewhere, skewing the totals.
Assistant Chief Peter Newsham said that many citizens want police to make more arrests for petty crimes, not to cut back. “We obviously make a lot of disorderly arrests,” Newsham said. “If you go to these community meetings, they’re asking our officers to make more arrests for quality-of-life crimes.”