DE Cop May Have Broken DC Law, Falsely Impersonating a Public Officer
Delaware State Police say they are conducting an internal investigation after a video was posted to YouTube on Tuesday depicting a state trooper’s threatening behavior toward a bicyclist in Washington, DC.
The short video, titled “Delaware Police Officer Making Threats in DC?,” was uploaded by Robert Fitzgerald, a 30-year-old energy policy consultant and avid bicyclist.
The video shows an SUV blocking off a marked bike lane.
Fitzgerald stops for a few seconds before flagging down a man in a suit standing next to the vehicle.
“Hey, let me explain something. Hey, pay attention, okay?” the man said, pulling back his jacket to reveal a badge and gun. “Don’t play with me, okay? Keep it moving.”
The man turned out to be a Delaware state trooper who was acting as part of Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s security detail.
It is illegal under Washington DC law to impersonate a public official (see image), even a Delaware cop.
PINAC Executive Director Grant Stern phoned the local police agency earlier today asking for general information without citing the specifics of the viral video below.
According to Officer Strater, who answered the general help desk of the Metropolitan DC Police earlier today, a properly credentialed law enforcement officer from another jurisdiction may may carry a concealed weapon along with proper law enforcement credentials in DC.
However, that officer may not display their weapon unless the threat of serious harm, imminent death or bodily injury is present.
That officer may further not perform any police functions while outside of jurisdiction in DC.
It’s uncertain if open carry is permitted for outside officers whatsoever in DC.
Fitzgerald posted the video on his YouTube channel, where he regularly shares videos depicting the dangers of riding a bike in Washington, DC.
“I started the channel because people break the rules and the police don’t seem to have the resources to do anything about it,” Fitzgerald said.
In an email, Fitzgerald explained more about the situation involving the state trooper:
I didn’t know it was a police vehicle when I called 911. After he flashed the gun and badge, I immediately assumed he was a US Marshal doing sensitive judicial work (like transporting a witness).
I didn’t want to interfere or put anyone in danger by drawing attention, so I apologized and moved on. Didn’t realize he was a Delaware law enforcement officer until after I reviewed the footage.
I have not been contacted by police for this. I did report it to local DC police (MPD), since I was concerned that a Delaware officer was flashing his gun and giving orders outside of his jurisdiction. Responding MPD officers were very polite and respectful, but did not take a report.
They just advised that if I see an SUV like that (fully tinted windows) in the future, to keep my distance.
I personally don’t want or expect any negative outcome for the officer. Hopefully he, along with other law enforcement officers who visit DC, will learn that it is not acceptable to pretend to have full police rights and responsibilities outside his jurisdiction.
“The Delaware State Police is aware of the video of a member of the Division. We will be conducting an internal investigation to determine if there have been any violations of our policies,” said Sergeant Richard D. Bratz, the PIO for the Delaware State Police.
Bratz would not say what the trooper’s name or rank was or whether he had been removed from active duty.
Kelly M. Bachman, the governor’s press secretary, sent PINAC the following statement:
As an avid cyclist and governor of the third most Bicycle Friendly State in America, the Governor knows keeping bike lanes clear is critical to the safety of everyone on the road. He understands the concerns being expressed regarding Tuesday’s incident in D.C., in which a State Trooper assigned to protect the Governor idled his vehicle in a bike lane while waiting for him to exit an event. Law enforcement officers must sometimes block lanes of traffic in order to do their job effectively and the Delaware State Police will be looking at how the officer handled this situation. The Governor appreciates all that our law enforcement officers do and trusts the Delaware State Police will handle their response to the incident appropriately.
Bachman also would not say what what trooper’s name or rank was nor would she say if the governor was still using him for security details.