Loose Lips

Police Email: “The File Burn Will Be Tomorrow”

And LL thought he had trouble getting Freedom of Information Act requests answered.

An email obtained by LL suggests that records set on fire last Friday at the fire department's training academy may include records that the Fraternal Order of Police union had requested through a FOIA request.

A deputy director of the department's recruitment bureau wrote to his staff on May 17 that there was to be a "file burn" the next day and the staff should get the items ready that they wanted destroyed. (See the email below.)

The next day, a fire engine company was called to the training academy to put out three burning dumpsters and an abandoned car that had been set on fire. The firefighters noticed what looked like personnel records of firefighters and police officers in the blazing rubble. Police and fire union officials asked the city's Office of Inspector General yesterday to investigate.

The FOP and city officials have long butted heads over recruitment and retention issues. Last fall, Gray announced he'd found extra money to hire 300 new police officers, the first new cops in a while. In February, the FOP filed a FOIA asking for records related to MPD's recruitment efforts.

When the city didn't produce the records, the FOP sued the District. The date of that lawsuit: May 14—three days before the email went out to recruitment staff telling them to get their records ready for burning. Assistant Chief Patrick Burke was copied on that email.

An MPD spokeswoman today referred LL to a response the department issued yesterday, saying the department is investigating and would also cooperate with the OIG.

The email:

[scribd id=94566911 key=key-2amw0v5sbx8x611yn0od mode=list]

More as LL gets it...

  • DC Guy

    This can't be good. Maybe they can join some of the politicians in the pokey for some good old fashioned whooping it up.

  • Drez

    Destruction of records you don't want to share is common practice becausr you can't be compelled to produce records you don't have.

  • michaeliceman

    It reads good in the press that these files were burned because of the FOP's FOIA requwst and lawsuit. Destroying records in the face of a FOIA requests is a huge no-no - but personnel records (and internal personnel procedures) generally are not FOIA-able. So it is not likely that these reocords were burned because of the FOP request.

    However, DC has some very restrictive record retention laws for government records (they track the Federal requirements). So heads could roll if those restrictions were violated.

  • Drez

    ^ Yeah.

  • Insider

    Marvin/Ben Haiman is 24 years old- how is he a deputy director in a DC govt agency? Was his position competitively advertised, or was it created for another reason? If you have early 20-somethings with no real experience in charge, its easirt to be a yes man without doing what is right.

  • DC Employee

    The files in the pictures yesterday were from DC Fire and EMS, not MPD.

  • Graham

    FYI,

    Ben might be 24 but he's really good at his job. He oversees the Reserve Corps recruitment which is moving at light speed compared to previous years. I have no idea what the fallout from this whole thing will be, but it would be a dark day for progress if he was canned. At least as far as the Reserves go.

  • HOOKMAN

    Drez...your first comment has to be the most stupidest one so far....really..destroying personnel records is probably illegal and lighting them on fire is called ARSON my friend....heads should not only be rolled but put in jail as well...

  • DRR

    More half-assed "reporting" from the City Paper. Why would Mr. Haiman copy Chief Burke if there was something sketchy going down? Let's reserve judgment about what happened until you know what was being burned and why. For all you know (and quite probably), it was old files that were not part of the FOIA request and had been approved for disposal for any number of reasons.

  • DCFiremanRetd

    DRR - so what about the fire department records being burned? Firemen on the scene saw their own records in there.

  • DCFiremanRetd

    Hookman - Drez might just have been telling a fact. It is common because they don't care if it is illegal.

  • DRR

    @ DCFiremanRtd: I think the question you should be asking is why is the DCFD giving their files to MPD?

  • HOOKMAN

    DRR...so the process is to stuff a car used for training burns, as well as 3 dumpsters, light them on fire then leave the scene for a engine company to get dispatched to put out the fires....Did you take time think that a fireman could have been injured or is that all apart of a routine file burn....Even when training fires occur at the TA, those lighting the fires have to be NFPA 1403 Certified.....So from your perspective, whether files are old or not, its ok to burn them, then leave and not be considered an arsonist...Not sure what world your living in, but the one i live in there's people called fire investigators who put people like this in prison...

  • Mike Madden

    @ DRR -- Is burning in dumpsters and an abandoned car the usual method for destroying old files in the D.C. government?

  • AnotherInsider

    Ben is young but a very competent hard worker. He actually got this job shortly after he RESIGNED in July from the IT Department because a boss - the CTO/Chief Technology Officer there - who was treating him poorly & poorly managing the IT Department. When he resigned, the Department FOUGHT to keep him and made last minute arrangements for him in another position, outside of the IT Department - and AWAY from the CTO there nobody likes.

    HOWEVER, I can also say MPD has procedures for disposal of documents, including taking full inventory of the documents and requiring signatures confirming that the documents are not subject to a FOIA request or pertinent to other pending legal action. Usually after that, Property Division would pickup the documents and handle destruction. I have NEVER known the correct procedure for document disposal at MPD to be asking people to put WHATEVER they want disposed of out in the hall and then simply burning the documents.

    For HIS sake, I sure hope Ben has something IN WRITING from someone higher up the chain than him requesting or ordering him to facilitate the destruction of these documents. Otherwise, it is VERY possible that Chief Lanier will throw him under the bus quick, fast, and in a HURRY if this turns into a scandal or a serious legal matter. He he didn't cover himself, she WILL scape-goat him. That much I DO know.

  • AnotherInsider

    As far as the comment "How can 24 year old be a Deputy Director?"

    All I can say is that, with D.C. Police, the public would be SURPRISED at the type of people put "in charge" in that Department, and a little butt-kissing seems to go a LONG way in Chief's office. Got Assistant Chiefs that couldn't even tell you how many numbers are on a standard police patrol car out in the districts and don't even know how to sign-on to their own police radios, one guy that went from a Sergeant to an Inspector (just 2 ranks away from an Assistant Chief) under Lanier doing nothing but driving her around, fetching her coffee, running her errands, & following her around like a lap-dog...it is unclear WHO exactly he is Supervising or WHAT he's in charge of - but he got the promotions and pay increases none-the-less, and a recently hired IT Department head with NO government experience whatsoever that turned the IT Department into a complete catastrophe in his first 6 months there - strangely, still employed.

    As far as Asst. Chief Burke: It's a well-known fact at that Department that if you have him for a Boss, you might as well not even HAVE a boss. Very hands-off. A complete space cadet, and definitely not the Sharpest Tool in the Shed. Truth be told, Ben could have sent out an email saying "The Building's ON FIRE", and Burke wouldn't have noticed.

  • Getting Close

    I am nearing retirement and it's getting harder and harder to navigate throught the negative BS between rank-in-file and managememt, or management against management. We spend a third of our life protecting the city, in the course of doing so, we lose respect and consideration for our members. Can we all just get along? I've heard this before. Sounds simply, yet difficult. The fire and police chief and union leaders need to find a true common ground to better work together. The us against them mindset will only spark additional incidents and in the final outcome it hurts everyone. Not a sermon...just a thought! THANKS

  • Use Your Brain

    To piggyback on what Hookman is trying to explain DRR. It is not common place to burn dumpsters and cars and leave the training academy so an on-duty unit to respond to put the fire out. That is just ass-backwards. After a fire, we do something called salvage & overhaul to prevent further destruction and rekindles. Current firefighters recognized their own personnel records and other's that are currently employed with DCFD. Now, how in the hell MPD records end up on Fire Dept. property, you will have to ask your IT "boy wonder" how the files found its way to the Fire Training Academy. Also, with the amount of files that was in the dumpsters and abandoned autos, you have to wonder how many folks are involved. This is DC. When someone gets "popped" for this dumb ass action, he is going to "dry snitch" his ass off. This is arson big-time. With all the federal and district agencies that disposes thousands of reams of info, you mean to tell me that the best way to get rid of DCFEMS and MPD records is to do a half-ass job in setting a dumpster fire.That is pitiful.

  • DRR

    @ HOOKMAN & Mike: I never commented about the method of the disposal. What I dislike is people and half-asses reporters implying that one guy disposed of files because there was a FOIA request for files....with no link to whether or not there was even a remote chance that the files in the dumpster were the ones being requested. Using that logic, any time there's a FOIA request NO piece of paper can be disposed of in any maker. Let them look into it and reserve judgement until the results come back. In the mean time, the CP should keep the weak speculation for the old ladies in the knitting circles.

  • HOOKMAN

    DRR.....Whether said files were of importance or not, the point you've failed to recognize is that this is called arson....when you light an intententional fire for whatever reason, then leave the scene, its called arson....its not a camp fire to toast marshmellows nor is it a controlled burn, its called arson. Whomever was involved didn't sit there with a garden hose to contain the fire nor were any safety measures utilized in how this was done....you can worry about the documents and whether they were important or not, but ill continue to view this entire incident as arson...

  • Drez

    ^. Yup
    Absent further data this whole thing amounts to some ignorant fool yelling "fire!".

  • DRR

    @ HOOKMAN: Show me in the half-assed article where they site arson as the focus of the article. Or show me where they even mention arson. Let me save you some time...they don't. So you can accuse them of jaywalking for all I care...my criticism is for half-assed implications in the article that focuses on unsubstantiated guesses at best. Although...you saying prison time is called for with a dumpster fire....sounds laughable to put it mildly!

  • Inside looking out

    They don't mention arson but hookman is right, that's exactly what it is on top of everything else it might be. They might not get any prison time but they can certainly be charged with malicious burning and reckless endangerment (for causing the FD to respond)

  • Terry Miller

    I don't think it would be considered to be arson, but you do need a permit in D.C. for an open burn. I remember many years ago in Fire/EMS "Three Lieutenants" got in trouble for setting training fires in abandoned public housing.

    The correct way to dispose of government records is in accordance with a "retention schedule" which each agency should have. Normally, people dispose of these records through shredding, and sometimes they will pay a vendor to dispose of them. I think there are some storage/disposal companies that burn records, but that would be in a special furnance, not in a dumpster!

  • HOOKMAN

    DRR....its obvious you're not a fireman nor do you know anything about arson, so thanks to the ever so knowledgable Wikipedia, Ive provided the definition for you. Though this may seem like an everday casual thing to do, I can assure you its not. If i or anyone were to do this, would this be ok.....I'm guessing I would lose my job and be charged with either a lesser degree of arson or destruction of property. If I started these fires and one of the fireman responding were to get hurt, i could be charged with first degree arson..For the record, i never stated the article mentioned it was arso, however, it was i that commented that this should be considered arson.... http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arson

  • DRR

    @ Hookman: How dense are you? What part of "my criticism is for half-assed implications in the article that focuses on unsubstantiated guesses at best." don't you understand? You want to focus on "arson"...whatever....I don't care and I'm not opining on it BECAUSE I don't know much about it. Not to mention, there is no mention of whether these half-assed CP "reporters" asked the DC-FEMS if they were involved in any way or knew about it. Maybe they did and THEY messed up. My point has been consistent...there was no actual reporting done on this garbage article, so leave the speculation and uninformed gossip to the old ladies in the knitting circle. Jeez....make sure you wear your helmet when you get called to fires....you can't afford to lose any more brain cells!

  • HOOKMAN

    DRR....I was going to send you a Christmas card this year, but after your insults regarding my head (which actually is pretty big)and accusations that I've lost brain cells, I've decided to withdraw my act of kindness.

    Were all entitled to our opinions and have the ability to put them down here in the comments section. Since its your opinion this is much to do about nothing, I decided to look at the other angle of this story. If this is much to do about nothing in your eyes, is setting unimportant old files that have nothing to do with any FOIA requests(in your broad mind and opinion) intentionally on fire, then leave the scene while said documents are burning in different areas of the training academy, no concern to you...See..when I said, whether these documents were or weren't of importance, I partially agreed with you, however, since I partially agreed with you, I then looked at the way these documents were improperly disposed.

    You said in your first comment, why would Mr. Haiman copy Chief Burke if something sketch was going on....LL never wrote anything sketchy was going on, but "SUGGESTS" records set on fire "MAY" include those that were requested through the FOIA....You call me dense, which I take as a compliment by the way, but your accusing LL of half assed reporting. I guess it is when we only know HALF the story here. FYI...there's cars posted at the entrance to 4600 Sheperd Pkwy with ID only admittance with about 16 investigators sifting through the burned documents. BTW...I love knitting and once made a beautiful comforter...

  • DRR

    Yes...using the highly skilled "reporting" methods used by the CP, the burned documents "MAY" also contain proof of the faked moon landing and evidence that can clear up the case of the Lindbergh baby's kidnapper. All are about as likely based on the complete lack of investigation by the City Paper done prior to printing this story. Don't hurt yourself with those knitting needles. And I'll end my involvment of this with a statement; I think firefighters, police, and teachers are the three most underappreciated and underpaid professions considering the responsibilities that are placed on them.

  • AnotherInsider

    The focus of the article is not arson @ DPR is definitely DOWNPLAYING the severity of this issue. Having WORKED at MPD, I can tell you right now that whether or not the files burned or subject to a FOIA request is STILL immaterial and irrelevant BECAUSE Police Department General Orders and Procedures ALONG with District Government Code have STRICT rules regarding the retention policy of documents, disposal procedures, and certain records are actually transferred over to the FEDERAL government's record's management branch after a certain period of time. That being said, I have NEVER seen any policy anywhere in the General Orders, D.C. Code, or Federal Regulations where the "appropriate" disposal method entailed somebody simply tossing the Sh*t in a Dumpster and Tossing a MATCH over in there.

    Sorry, ONE or MORE PEOPLE have broken the LAW. PERIOD. Unfortunately, Mr. Ben aka "Boy Wonder" is the ONE who got caught discussing it ON RECORD. As the saying goes, when the Music STOPPED, he was the ONE without a CHAIR. In all likelihood somebody MUCH higher up the chain than him ordered this at MPD, but he is the one who got CAUGHT on record discussing the Act. MPD is all Politics and NO Chief or Assistant Chief is going to lose their job over some kid in IT. If they need a Scape-Goat he will be the FIRST one. It's a sad reality, but it's the TRUTH.

    Bottom line, this is NOT the proper disposal method or ANY document I know of of ANY kind ANY where in the District government. As far as Setting an "abandoned" car on fire: Not smart, since often times "abandoned" cars are somehow connected to unsolved crimes, including auto thefts, abductions, and murder. There is a PROPER disposal method for abandoned cars AS WELL, and I can promise you it does NOT involved members of public safety organizations simply running outside and setting it ablaze. The whole situation is BAD for whatever angle you look at it and in all likelihood somebody is "going down" for this blunder.

  • AnotherInsider

    The other thing people should keep in mind is that SOMEBODY who received this email MUST be the person who sent it over to the News: That being said, if somebody decided to "blow the whistle" then it's because SOMETHING is going on that isn't right. When I look at the NAMES on the recipients list, I know for a FACT most of those people have been at D.C. Police for years, decades even - many of them down at Recruiting most of their career. Most of them have been there LONG enough to know what proper procedures are, and ONE of them apparently blew the whistle because they have been in D.C. government to know a RED FLAG when they see one. Kudos to them!

  • BlueMan

    AnotherInsider, Ben may be a competent hard worker when it comes to IT matters; however he has no knowledge or background in handling personnel matters and/or to make decisions on hiring officers. For the Chief Lanier to place him in this position does the citizens of the District a great disservice.

    The Director of IT did not treat Ben poorly, but held him accountable to his chain of command (which Ben has a habit of circumventing) as with any other employee of the department. Ben did not like this so he decided to leave. Chief Lanier would have been better off letting him leave since he no longer wanted to do the job that he was hired to do, instead of giving him a $20,000 raise to almost $120,000 to keep him.

    DC Employee, if you have more then 20 years on the jobs and you are a police officer or fire fighter, some one your records may have been in that dumpster, since it included medical records from the old Police and Fire Clinic that should not have been destroyed.

    Insider, no the position was not advertised or even open. Through a series of meetings with the Chief Lanier while Chief Burke was out of the country (circumventing the chain of command again), Ben convinced Chief Lanier that he could do a better job of running Recruiting then its former Director. Chief Burke found out when he returned from his trip that now had Recruiting reporting to him, thanks to Ben.

    Graham, yes Ben is good at recruiting reserve officers and that is what they should have let him do, but they had to justify his pay increase. Ben also with the approval those above him started a class of Level 1 Reserve Officer’s that had not cleared their background checks, some which later failed to pass the background investigation after being let into the Academy.

  • AnotherInsider

    BlueMan: I DEFINITELY agree that Ben did not have the expertise needed to handle personnel matters. Like, I said, when I look at that email and WHO it was sent to, many of those HR/Recruiting employees have been there for YEARS, some of them in their 40's, 50's, and 60's and they have plenty of knowledge about what you CAN and CANNOT do with personnel files from years of EXPERIENCE. Which explains why ONE of them sent this over to the News. They KNEW something had gone terribly wrong.

    As far as the IT Director there, YES, he did mistreat Ben and many other staff members in IT. From the time he got there in 2010, it was VERY obvious he simply "had it in" for certain employees that he consistently screwed with. Morale PLUMMETED right after he came in, and IT staff who had been known for working hard actually started not to even care any more.

    So much so that IT staff members began marching in DROVES last summer to the offices of Chief Durham and Chief Lanier complaining about how poorly he was doing his job and requesting that he be REPLACED. The biggest complaint from IT was the IT Director showed NO LEADERSHIP and was UNRESPONSIVE and completely UN-INVOLVED in what was going on. It took him SIX MONTHS after being on the job to even call a meeting with his staff: It took him ONE MONTH on the job before he even introduced himself to his STAFF - saying HI for a quick 2 minutes then running back out the door. As far as the software applications section where Ben worked, the IT Director only visited staff member offices maybe 2 or 3 times in his first YEAR on the job.

    When IT staff went to the Director for guidance in times of Emergencies or Urgent Matters, they got NOTHING. In most instances, communications to the Director regarding major emergencies were simply IGNORED. However, he was also known for BLAMING workers after an emergency happened that he conveniently IGNORED and failed to intervene in. To make matters worse, the Director made a DECISION to fire ALL of his Deputies at once, effectively leaving NOBODY in charge of the IT Department. Most IT staff were left with little or no choice but to either make their own decisions or go a level up higher (to the Chief's office) for guidance and intervention in major issues.

    There was no real "chain of command" in the IT Department to circumvent. It was a complete COLLAPSE of any chain of command and complete CHAOS. Most IT staff members didn't even have any ASSIGNMENTS to do from the Director, unless they did like Ben and went around the building LOOKING for work to do. Chain of Command? Under that director, it became a Ship at Sea in a hurricane with no Captain on-board, by far his hiring was the BIGGEST internal mistake Chief Lanier ever made. No successful projects have gone out the door since he's gotten there, and everything that GOES out the door now is a complete catastrophe. A complete turn-around for IT there under the last few CTOs. Epic FAIL.

    In the case with Ben, he DID do the job he was hired to do in IT and was one of the most productive software programmers. However, I can tell you first hand, this Director actually STRIPPED him of all his programming duties and re-assigned him to "dummy" administrative tasks. For MONTHS, Ben was doing no programming by ORDER of the IT Director, though Ben was constantly emailing and ASKING him for work to do.

  • HOOKMAN

    Glad to see the recent comments and focus are all about IT BEN.....screw the F'en fact that one or more people INTENTIONALLY set separate fires THEN LEFT THE SCENE WHILE still burning. Screw the fact that an Engine Co. Had to be dispatched to put out these INTENTIONALLY set fires....Screw the fact that whomever lit these fires AND LEFT THE SCENE put the fireman responding lives at risk (every response we take is a risk). Screw the fact that one of the fireman could have been injured while putting these fires out. Guess all that is immaterial.......Guess its perfectly F'en legal to intentionally set fires, then leave the fires ablaze, as long as its done at the fire academy???????.....not sure what rock you were born under, but there's different degrees of arson and not just one. On a lower scale, there's destruction of property etc.....So in this case, EVERYTHING should be looked at from the files and improper disposal of them and the person or persons that set them on fire..m

  • FormerMPD

    Left DC good while ago and got out of the area-- thank GOD. Never looked back. Seriously- a 24 yr old making 120k and in charge as a deputy director of a major city agency??? Lost their minds.

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