How D.C. Cops Scheme to Take Your Car

Article excerpt

Byline: John Drake

The D.C. Inspector General's Office has uncovered a scheme in which police officers and towing companies collaborate to illegally confiscate cars and charge victims exorbitant storage fees.

The Metropolitan Police Department yesterday began an internal investigation into the report's findings, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said.

Chief Gainer said the Office of Professional Responsibility has "for some time" been investigating some of the problems named in the report, which was issued in March. Department officials also are using the findings "to see if there are ways we can improve our business practices," he said.

In the report, titled "A Review of the District of Columbia Towing Regulations and Its Enforcement," investigators for D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox cited instances in which officers violate D.C. law and department rules by arranging for illegal towing, not notifying car owners and having a financial stake in towing companies.

Illegally towed vehicles disappear in sparsely regulated private impound lots, leaving owners without cars and insurance companies with large bills, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Times.

The report does not specify how many officers were involved in the scheme. Chief Gainer said no one has been disciplined because the investigation has just started.

Investigators found that some police officers and civilian employees used their positions of authority to further their private towing companies. For example, one civilian police employee towed cars to a police building during his shift, then used his private towing truck to impound the vehicles after work.

One officer working security at an apartment complex ordered cars towed by a towing company he was associated with. The officer, who later resigned, also was seen driving a private tow truck while in uniform.

Some officers and tow truck drivers collaborated to tow legally parked cars, the report said. …