DC chief: Reports differ on officer's "threats"
First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Newseum in Washington on June 5, 2012. / AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
(AP) WASHINGTON - If your job is protecting the first lady's motorcade, mouthing off about the boss can lead to more than a citation in a personnel file.
A District of Columbia police officer found that out this week when he came under investigation for threatening comments he was accused of making about first lady Michelle Obama, though police are still trying to figure out exactly what was said, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Friday.
"Five people can be in the room and will relate five different kinds of stories or versions of a story," she said. "As we take statements, there's going to naturally in every investigation be some inconsistencies."
Authorities have not identified the officer, a veteran with the department for about 17 years, assigned to a unit that provides a motor escort for the White House and other dignitaries.
Lanier said the officer is accused of making a threat about the first lady a comment overheard by another officer and then reported to a superior. The department's internal affairs division and the U.S. Secret Service are investigating the remarks and taking statements from officers who heard them.
The Washington Post cited anonymous police officials in reporting that the officer told colleagues he would shoot the first lady and then showed a photo on his phone of a gun he would use. Lanier said she couldn't say for sure exactly what the officer may have said.
"Right now, because we're still taking statements, I can tell you that we haven't gotten to that point where we can kind of figure out what the real, closest to the best-kind-of-story" is, the chief said.
It's also not clear how seriously the comments were meant to be taken, but the officer has nonetheless been placed on paid desk duty and could be referred for prosecution if investigators believe his comment constituted an actual threat against the first lady. He could also face administrative discipline for conduct unbecoming. While the Secret Service investigates threats against the first family as a matter of routine, the comments no doubt take on added seriousness given the officer's role within the department.
There was no indication of a legitimate threat to the first lady.
"We have in the 150 years we've existed assisted in protecting the president, the first lady and foreign heads of state as they travel around the city, and we do it flawlessly," Lanier said. "The amount of frustration and outrage and hurt to the members of this agency, if the allegation is true, cannot be overstated."
Mayor Vincent Gray said in an appearance on Washington's NewsChannel 8 on Friday that it was hard to believe a police officer would do or say the types of things alleged.
But, he added, "There's no room for jokes or frivolity when you're dealing with the first family."
Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said the agency was aware of the report and was taking "appropriate follow-up steps."
A White House spokesman said Friday that President Barack Obama was also aware of the investigation but had nothing to say about it, and he referred questions to the Secret Service. Typically, in the case of a threat against a member of the first family, the Secret Service interviews participants and witnesses and then decides how to proceed.
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