Monday, July 25, 2011

Is a DC Police Officer Out to Get Patrons of Takoma DC Restaurant?

We found this intriguing story on the TakomaDC Listserv. We'll keep you posted if there are further developments in this case.

My Fellow Residents of Takoma,

Like many of you, I get my regular fix of Jamaican food at Spicy Delight near the Takoma Metro. It is right in front of the fire hydrant on Carroll Avenue. Many times customers pull up in front of the hydrant, put on their hazards, run inside to get their order, then run out and be on their way. In the past, an officer may tell them to move their car or just give them a warning or a pass, but for the last month or two, there has been an officer who has been specifically targeting customers of Spicy Delight.

I witnessed two incidents. One where the officer, J.W., gave a guy over $200 in tickets within a span of 4 minutes because he felt the guy did not move his car fast enough. (I personally thought this officer appeared to have a Napoleon complex, but I figured perhaps this was just a one time thing to prove a point.) Days later, however, when I returned, the co-owner, Ms Spicy, had posted a sign in her window saying her customers were being targeted, so please do not park by the hydrant. I was concerned. About a week or two afterward, I inquired if she still felt targeted. In addition to more hydrant ticketing stories by this same officer, she shared with me that one of the other small business owners told her that this officer, J.W., told them that he indeed plans to ticket as many Spicy Delight customers as possible, because he thinks she's mean. (What?!) Ironically as she shared this story, a customer pulled up to the hydrant, put on his hazards, and walked in the store. She immediately and urgently told him to move his car because he will get a ticket. The gentleman yelled out his order as he immediately walked back to his car and got inside of it. Within two minutes, I watched officer J.W. pull up in his car (I guess the officer stays near the 7-Eleven) and proceed to give the man a ticket. This man then shared that when he offered to move his car, the officer told him "no," to stay there, while he wrote out the ticket. He also shared that the officer asked him from which business did he just return.

At first, I thought Officer J.W. was just being extra vigilant about not blocking the hydrant, but apparently that is not the case. I wouldn't be taking the time to write this if I thought it was. With so many concerns about reducing crime in this area, why is my tax money being wasted on an officer's personal vendetta against a Takoma business? Okay, fine, no parking at the hydrant, I get that, but specifically targeting customers? The actions and motives of this officer concern me on many levels. They are bad for business and the community. He is to protect and serve the members (residents, business owners, friends, etc) and guests of this community, not target them for harassment. Spicy Delight has been in business in this community for over 16 years and has never had this problem. They are one of the reasons why the Takoma community feels like one big family to me. They have been nothing but personable, kind, caring and professional.

Ms Spicy has put in several phone calls to the Police Department. I am not sure what their response has been, but as someone who has already witnessed two incidents (and heard several more), I wanted to post my concerns to help prevent this behavior by Mr. J.W. or any other officer from escalating.

After all, if this is how Officer J.W. operates, then what is the next business or resident he may decide to harass unchallenged, under the guise of enforcing the law?

Very concerned,

[We have substituted initials for names in the above message.]

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