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Again Police Over-react and Misapply the Law

Featured below the fold in the May 8th Washington Post was a news story about a woman and her friend who were apprehended and arrested at 1:30 on a recent morning in Georgetown (they were from Northeast DC!) for the crime of removing discarded city-issued trash containers to which were affixed those now ubiquitous yellow stickers bearing in large letters the admonition, “Take Me!”

They aroused the suspicion of a U.S. Secret Service officer who was guarding some self-important diplomat’s house who then called in back-up from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Suspicion aroused, why?

Well, for one thing, one of the “perps” was wearing a hoodie –- after all, this was in Georgetown where, apparently like in Florida, wearing a hoodie while out on a quiet street when it is dark seemingly is prima facie evidence that criminal intent must be afoot.

We wonder if anyone in the Secret Service learned anything from the Treyvon Martin debacle? We would think they had followed the news of that travesty and might have put out the word that hoodies are worn by rich and not rich alike and do not denote criminality.

The Post did not report whether these two were persons of color or not, but we have the sinking feeling that the Secret Service officer may well have believed it because why would white people be glomming used trash cans in the dark of the early morning in a fancy neighborhood? (For the record, we are being sarcastic here.)

But, was this even a crime for which these two ought to been arrested and processed at the Second District Police HQ?

As every DC homeowner knows, as well as residents who rent and share the same alleys and streets with homeowners who get city trash service, last month crews from the public works department suddenly started showing up and depositing brand new trash and recycling (the extra large kind) bins without regard to whether or not new ones were actually needed by every homeowner. (Like many others in this writer’s alley alone, our bins were in perfect condition and to then have the “old” ones taken away to be scrapped seems to be an incredible waste of scare DC funds.

But, back to the question, was the arresting officer correct in stating that these people were guilty of theft of DC government property? The answer lies with DPW which on its website in the section instructing with how to deal with the trash bins that are to be put out with the yellow stickers affixed for pick up and disposal, provides the following guidance:

“[question:] Can I keep and repurpose my old Supercan and recycling can?

“[answer:] Yes. However, please move the repurposed can(s) on to your property so that they do not excessively clutter alleys and streets. . . .”

Well, well. Seems to us that the DPW bureaucrats who are encourage this apparent law-breaking need to also be arrested & booked for conspiracy to facilitate a city-wide crime spree. (We’re being sarcastic again.)

Once again, here is another example of police officers assuming they actually know and understand the law when in fact they haven’t a clue and just make it up as they go along without at least consulting with higher-ups who might know better.

We addressed this issue 16 years ago in an editorial titled “The Chardonnay Lady Revisited: She May Become A Monument” and more recently in another editorial titled “Has DC a ‘Chardonnay Lady’ Case Situation Again After 14 Years?” It appears that the police bureaucracy will never learn.

Obviously, based on DPW’s assertion, it was legal for those citizens to remove the bins, which they claimed were to be used as planters and for embellishing for decorative/artistic purposes around the woman’s property. (Whether loading 51 of these into their truck was excessive or not is of no consequence since DPW does not state that there is any limit as to how many can be taken.)

A Post reader who submitted an on-line comment summed things up very nicely: “The whole can replacement debacle typifies our inept city government. First, there was nothing wrong with the old cans. Second, the new cans are gigantic, commercial-like monstrosities that clog the narrow alleyways. Third, replacement should have been an option for those who found their existing cans inadequate, instead of spending millions on unnecessary replacements. Fourth, the pick-up protocol should have been in place before distributing the new cans. I dutifully put the “Take Me!” sticker on my old cans and waited weeks for them to be retrieved. When a truck finally came down my alley, they refused to take my cans because I “wasn’t on the list.” What list?? There’s a list of people whose cans are more gigantic, unnecessary, and alley-clogging than mine? Pathetic.”