Panel recommends suspension for officers who confiscated camera
WASHINGTON, D.C.–A District of Columbia police review panel in early November recommended unpaid suspensions for two D.C. police officers after they took a camera from a Washington Post reporter who photographed a woman the officers had handcuffed to a mailbox.
The city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is made up of civilians and police officers, ruled that officers Ephraim Williams and Edward Ford used excessive force and engaged in harassment when they took Brian Mooar’s camera in December 1993.
The board recommended that the officers receive remedial training and that Williams and Ford be suspended for 30 days and 20 days, respectively. According to a Post article on the board’s ruling, D.C. Police Chief Larry Soulsby had no comment on the decision.
The woman who Mooar photographed was handcuffed to a mailbox in the Georgetown area after she was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Mooar’s attorney, G. Allen Dale, said the temperature that day was 34 degrees and the woman was wearing a short skirt and no coat.
Dale said Mooar was on his way to cover a story when he overheard the woman screaming for someone to take her picture. Mooar began photographing the woman and, when the police arrived, the officers took the camera and tried to remove the film, according to Dale. In his testimony to the review board, Mooar said he received a back injury when the officers seized his camera.
The police officers told Mooar, according to Dale, that he was not allowed to take photographs because he did not have the woman’s consent. Dale added that the police officers also said Mooar was hindering an investigation and later that Mooar was trying to take lewd photographs.
Mooar’s photographs appeared in the Post later that day. Mooar would not comment on the incident because, according to Dale, “He doesn’t want to be the story–he wants to report the story.”
A spokeswoman for the D.C. police said that as of November 14, the police chief had not received a copy of the board’s report and therefore could not comment.
Mooar filed a lawsuit against the city in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. His attorney said he expects the suit will be settled. (Mooar v. District of Columbia; Media Counsel: G. Allen Dale, Washington)