MPD Is Now Investigating Another Violent Logo Worn By Police Officers

Activists have filed a dozen complaints against individual D.C. police officers after uncovering a photo of them posing behind a skull-and-crossbones flag that they say glorifies police violence.

Along with the image of the skull-and-crossbones, in which the skull has a bullet hole on the forehead, the flag features two pistols, two sets of handcuffs, and the motto “Vest Up One In The Chamber,” all beneath the letters NSID, which stand for Narcotics and Special Investigations Division.

Eugene Puryear, an organizer with Stop Police Terror Project DC, says that the motto refers to wearing a bulletproof vest and loading a bullet into a gun, and that D.C. residents have reported seeing the logo reproduced on patches and articles of clothing.

“Members of the gun recovery unit have been seen wearing these patches and sweatshirts while on patrol and in court testifying,” Puryear said at a press conference late last week, alongside representatives of Law 4 Black Lives DC and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “This is not a hidden image. Obviously this is meant as a form of intimidation for the community.”

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said that “any objective observer would actually see [the NSID] as a death squad unit” in the photo.

The Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that it “was made aware of a photo circulating on social media. It was learned that this 2016 photo was recently posted to a current member’s personal Twitter account. We have begun an internal investigation and will take appropriate action … The image is not representative of our officers’ connection to, countless positive interactions with, and trust built among our residents and visitors.”

The surfacing of this photo comes less than a month after MPD opened an investigation into a t-shirt worn by Officer Vincent Altiere, which has an image of the grim reaper that references a controversial policing tactic known as jump-outs, and a “sun cross,” a symbol commonly used by white supremacist groups.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham called the grim reaper t-shirt “disgraceful.” Altiere has been placed on non-contact status, and the investigation into the t-shirt is ongoing, per MPD.

Already, that investigation has resulted in the dismissal of at least one criminal case, after prosecutors told the defense that one of the officers involved may have helped design the shirt, The Washington Post reports.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. declined to comment , as is its practice for any pending cases or on internal MPD investigations.

But activists say that these incidents are a revealing look at the police department’s internal culture. “There are two separate t-shirts and logos and slogans that are linked to units inside the Metropolitan Police that celebrate a culture of death,” said Puryear, who says a tip after publicizing the first logo led to the discovery of the second one. He ties the “cavalierness with which they seem to be willing to treat the lives of civilians” to police-involved shootings.

According to a 2016 report from the D.C. auditor, the number of officer-involved fatal shootings in the city has ranged from three to eight annually since 2009. No MPD officer has ever faced criminal charges for an on-duty shooting.

The activists are calling for MPD to place all 12 officers identified in the photograph on non-contact duty; terminate all officers who created, displayed, or possessed the logo; investigate all members of the Gun Recovery Unit (part of NSID) for all police shooting and use of force incidents; and reopen all previous police shooting and use of force incidents involving officers associated with the logo.

Puryear said that termination is not too harsh a punishment for these officers. “The split-second decision of a police officer can mean your life or your death,” he said. “People’s lives are at stake.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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