A GW student filed two grievances against Metropolitan Police last week, alleging that she was wrongfully arrested in her Columbia Plaza apartment in January.
The junior, who requested anonymity, lodged complaints with MPD and the D.C. Office of Citizen Complaint Review claiming an off-duty officer had no legitimate grounds to arrest her Jan. 16 after the officer told her to turn down her music.
Shortly before midnight, the officer entered the student’s room to find six people listening to music, the junior said. She said the officer ordered the visitors who did not live in the room to leave.
“This guy knocks on our door and tells us to turn off our music and get our IDs,” said the student, who added that she was surprised to see the plainclothes officer because the music was “super quiet.”
Even though she said Officer Charles Fisher was acting “belligerent” and ignoring her questions, the junior said she remained patient and polite.
After being asked for his credentials, Fisher left the apartment and returned 20 minutes later with a uniformed MPD officer, who arrested the student.
“They were really rude,” she said. “They didn’t even let me take my shoes and jacket, but my roommate managed to bring them to me.”
After being held in an MPD Second District Headquarters jail cell for almost two hours, the junior was fined $25 and released.
Last week, the student appeared in front of a Student Judicial Services panel that will determine whether she was in violation of her Columbia Plaza lease agreement, which goes through the University. The agreement can punish tenants for creating disturbances.
SJS said Wednesday she was not in violation of the Student Code or her lease agreement.
The student said she was outraged by Fisher’s actions.
“I think he had wounded pride,” she said. “If it was some 70-year-old woman he would not have arrested her.”
The student said she hopes MPD will expunge her arrest record after reviewing the incident. She added that her financial situation prevented her from taking legal action against Fisher, who could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Officials at the D.C. Office of Citizen Complaint Review confirmed that the student filed a complaint but were unable to comment on the investigation. Within a week of receiving a complaint, the office decides whether to investigate or dismiss a case, according to its Web site.
Officer Junis Fletcher, of MPD’s Public Information Office, said it is common for an apartment complex to hire MPD officers as security officers. The District permits MPD officers to hold another job as long as it doesn’t interfere with their police work.
“Officers often work for apartments,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher, who could not comment on the case, said officers working another job are still required to enforce the law.
“If he’s hired for security in the District he’s still an officer with Metro Police and he’s still responsible for his MPD duties,” he said.
Fletcher said MPD’s internal affairs unit investigates all complaints filed against officers.
Some students who live in Columbia Plaza were not surprised to hear about the junior’s arrest and said there is tension between students and some of the building’s older residents.
“We get shunned, bad looks and receive calls at 11 o’clock on Saturdays that music is too loud,” said senior Francisco Tirado, who added that MPD officers have come to his door about 15 times in his three-year stay at the apartment complex.
“People have come and complained about noise at 10:30 on a Saturday,” said Gur Doiteolo, a graduate student who lives in Columbia Plaza. “It seems kind of absurd.”
Some residents said the University, which owns 28 percent of the Virginia Avenue complex, should not offer students the chance to live there.
Officials at Columbia Plaza could not be reached for comment.
Some Columbia Plaza residents who are unaffiliated with GW said students’ presence in the building does not disturb them but added that some students’ behavior can be more disruptive than others’.
“Generally they are very polite, but of course they are noisier than the general population,” John Mitchell said.
“Overall, we are happy with them,” he added.
Resident Bill George said he has seen an improvement in students’ conduct over the past two years.
“I think we’ve complained in the past and the noisy ones have been asked to leave,” he said.
Bernard Demczuk, GW’s assistant vice president for D.C. affairs, said the University enjoys “good relations” with Columbia Plaza residents.