A humid Saturday night in August finds Officer John Brennan in a Metropolitan Police patrol car, checking out Georgetown University girls to make sure they’re not drinking. Or maybe he’s just checking them out.
“It’s always off the hook right now,” says Brennan as he looks for students nursing open beer bottles and red Solo cups. “You can always find something here.”
Brennan, a 25-year-old with a stubble beard and intent eyes, navigates the narrow streets of Georgetown, past hordes of students in polo shirts and short skirts enjoying the last vestiges of summer.
Brennan’s ears perk up as the radio dispatcher alerts all officers to a robbery in the vicinity of 33rd and M streets. Officers are instructed to look for four Hispanic males in a red vehicle.
The streets of Georgetown are soon aflame, as five squad cars comb the area for the suspects. Brennan drives over cobblestones and trolley tracks, his bright lights offending the yawning townhouses lurking in the shadows.
Darting through side streets, Brennan pulls over a red Chrysler convertible that sped through a stop sign. Getting out of his car, Brennan walks slowly toward the Chrysler as its driver looks worriedly out of his side-view mirror.
The driver does not fit the suspects’ description and Brennan lets him go with a warning. The suspects are never found.
Twenty minutes later, a noise complaint comes over the radio and Brennan proceeds to the Statesman apartment building on F Street.
Upon entering, Brennan climbs the steps to the second floor, where he knocks of the door of room 227.
“If you don’t live here, you need to roll out,” he tells the dozen or so GW students holed up in the apartment.
After several minutes, the party’s host emerges with a sheepish smile on his face. Brennan tells him that it’s too early to be drunk.
“It’s 12:20 – it’s not early,” says the student, a native of New York.
Brennan gives the student a warning and scribbles down his name in a CVS notepad. He is about to leave when the apartment’s desk clerk, a round-faced woman, summons him.
“There’s some more upstairs,” she says. “I had to break up some romance in the hall.”
“What kind of romance?” asks Brennan, half jokingly.
“A man and a woman,” answers the clerk, imploring Brennan to scour the fourth floor for rowdy students.
Moving through the fourth floor hallway, Brennan steps over empty beer bottles and crushed Natural Ice beer cans. The floor is quiet, and Brennan walks back toward the elevator.
“They’re not loud, it’s not loud,” Brennan says. “Loud is, you know…this is just a whisper. I can’t put that on any room.”
Asked about the empty beer cans strewn about the floor, Brennan says, “It’s just like the street. You can’t put that on someone.”
Driving through the sleepy streets of historic Foggy Bottom, Brennan is called over to the 1900 block of E Street where a man has reportedly punched his girlfriend in the mouth.
Brennan arrives on the scene to find a sulking woman talking to an MPD officer near the Interior Department building. A description of the boyfriend is put out over the radio, and soon Brennan is driving the wrong way down one-way streets in pursuit of a black male wearing dark clothing.
“He could’ve went anywhere,” says Brennan, driving down Constitution Avenue with the Washington Monument in full view. “There are a lot of places to hide around here.”
Pulling over at 14th Street and New York Avenue, Brennan spots a black male sitting on a bench with a cell phone pressed to his ear. It is the boyfriend, who was on the phone with an MPD officer.
“Yesterday was my birthday. We have a five-month old daughter,” says the man as Brennan puts him in handcuffs. The man is taken to D.C.’s Second District headquarters, where he is to be charged with domestic violence.
At 4 a.m., Brennan, looking forward to getting off in two hours, is writing up a traffic accident on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue when he hears the shouts of an hysterical woman around the corner.
Brennan races towards the Prince of Georgetown, an Afghan hookah bar, where a fight has just broken out between dozens of drunken patrons. After calling for backup, Brennan rushes headfirst into the melee, separating the warring factions that are shouting at each other in Arabic.
Several minutes later, five squad cars appear on the scene; but the fighting continues as a man in his twenties swings wildly at another man, eventually landing a right hook that causes the other man’s left eye to swell to the size and color of a plum.
Soon, MPD officers gain control of the situation, arresting one man and dispersing the rest. One man stood forlornly looking at the steps of the bar, which were littered with take-out trays and crushed Marlboro Light cartons.
“It was really a no-win situation,” Brennan says after making his second arrest of the night. “People get drunk, they just don’t go home. Go home.”
Driving back towards Foggy Bottom, a tired Brennan sees a disheveled old man dodging cars on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Do you know where the bus stop is?” shouts the man over the roar of the cars.
Brennan gives the man a ride to the bus stop on 20th and K streets and shrugs his shoulders, smiling.
“That’s all I need is for him to get killed out there,” he says.