‘Policing is not a game’: DC public safety chair disturbed by arrest competition

The chairman of the D.C. Council’s public safety committee is responding to reports that a group of Metro Transit police officers made a game out of arresting people.

“We’re really disturbed by it,” said Council Member Charles Allen. “Policing is not a game.”

Allen’s comments follow a report by The Washington Post that some officers based at Fort Totten last July participated in a competition in which officers were awarded points for making arrests and writing tickets.

The winner of the contest was awarded a $20 movie gift card.

“It’s serious and should be disturbing to everybody,” said Allen. “Giving gift cards and awards for the number of people you arrest is not what we expect out of policing, and it does damage to the trust that every rider needs to have.”

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told The Post that the contest was “unsanctioned” and was shut down after top commanders learned of it.

Stessel said that the agency “does not condone the use of competitions with regard to productivity” and that “appropriate corrective action was taken immediately,” referring to the people involved.

“On one hand we hear that the practice is stopped, but it’s incredibly disturbing that there’s a culture that would allow this to be created,” Allen said.

The issue is sure to come up next Wednesday, when the council holds a “performance oversight hearing” focused on Metro.

Metro Transit police have been dealing with allegations of racial profiling and unnecessary force, prompting Allen and Council Member Robert White to hold a public hearing on the matter last November.

During that hearing, transit police chief Ron Pavlik testified that while there are no quotas for arrests for his officers, their performance is assessed based on the arrests and tickets they issue.

“I think it’s something that your officers should look at: How can you evaluate the performance of officers other than arrests and citations?” said White.

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