Washington, D.C., Police Chief Peter Newsham has reached out to a Chevy Chase, Md., woman who was arrested after neighbors complained about music from a party being too loud, telling her that it was wrong for an officer to take her into custody, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department confirmed Wednesday.
“It was inconsistent with his vision of community policing, and we probably could have handled the situation differently,” police spokesperson Dustin Sternbeck, said, according to the Washington Post.
The woman, C. Nicole Mason, wrote about her harrowing experience May 28 for The Root, detailing how a noise complaint got her carted down to the police station.
Mason, who is an author, wrote:
The police officers, one white and the other black, responded to a noise complaint from my neighbors. When I came to the door, I noticed the demeanor of the white officer right away. He was not friendly. I believed that he was surprised that it was I, an African-American woman, who had come to the door.
The officer proceeded to let me know that I was in violation of the noise ordinance that had begun about 15 minutes prior to his arrival at 10:15 p.m. He asked me to turn off the music. The second sentence out of his mouth was, “You can be arrested for this.” He then returned to his squad car. I worked frantically with another guest to turn the music down and to research the noise ordinance.
After about 20 minutes of waiting at the foot of my driveway, the white officer returned to my porch and arrested me for violating the noise ordinance. I was silent. I knew what could happen to me if I asked a question or refused to go. Immediately I thought of Sandra Bland, the black woman pulled over for a routine traffic shot in Texas who, days later, was found dead in her jail cell; the young girl, also in Texas, who was assaulted by a police officer while attending a pool party; and the high schooler in South Carolina who was manhandled by a school safety officer while sitting at her desk.
Before Mason was even taken away in the police car, the music had reportedly already been turned off.
As the Post notes, nuisances like violations of the noise ordinance are typically handled with criminal citations, requiring the alleged violators to appear in court. Sternbeck told the Post that Newsham now plans to order that arrests can be made only with the approval of a supervisor ranked lieutenant or higher.
So far this year, D.C. police have arrested some 37 individuals on noise-ordinance violations. The ordinance mandates that noise levels be capped at 55 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. in residential neighborhoods. If convicted, the person can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 and 10 days in jail.
Mason—who was photographed, fingerprinted and briefly held in a cell—filed a complaint against the department, the Post notes.
In emails, Mason told the Post that she was “pleased” with Newsham’s response to the incident and his “efforts to create protocols that reflect a desire to build communities where all residents feel safe and are treated fairly.”
Read more at the Washington Post.