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DC Police chief testifies he did not investigate report of unconstitutional police stops known as 'jump outs'

"Somebody could be doing a jump out right now and we may not know that. It's not something that's condoned by the department," Contee said.

WASHINGTON — The horrific images of Tyre Nichols beating death in Memphis have brought fresh calls for police to abolish the illegal, unconstitutional tactic known as a “jump out,” when officers jump out of their patrol car to stop someone without probable cause, often looking for guns or drugs.

“It’s these police officers that jump out all of a sudden and they swarm you, and they’re very aggressive,” said Nichols family attorney Ben Crump. “And they normally are trampling on your constitutional rights, and you see it in Tyre’s video.”

Now never-before-published video of MPD Chief Robert Contee reveals new questions about whether MPD is going far enough to ensure DC Police aren’t using “jump outs” in the District.

“We do not do jump outs, ma’am,” Chief Contee during questioning by attorney Lynne Bernabei during a November 2022 deposition, part of a lawsuit brought by MPD Sergeant Charlotte Djossou. The lawsuit brought by the 18-year veteran alleges retaliation under DC’s Whistleblower Act after she reported wrongdoing, including the use of jump outs, to her superiors.

I was present during a roll call when an officer explained and instructed other officers to use the jump out tactic,” Djossou said in an interview with WUSA9.

Contee testified he did not recall Djossou telling him about that roll call incident during a 2018 meeting in which Djossou reported the continued use of jump outs by officers in MPD’s Narcotics Special Investigation Division.

During Contee’s 2022 deposition, which was provided to WUSA9 by Djossou's attorneys, Bernabei pressed Contee on why he did not do an investigation into Djossou’s jump out claims. Contee was an Assistant Chief at the time of their conversation.

Bernabei: “And since there was no investigation done, you don't know, as you sit here, whether jump outs were still being done in 2018, correct?”

Contee: “I don't know, ma'am. 

Bernabei: “Okay.”

Contee: “I'm not sure.”

Bernabei: “And you don't know as you sit here whether jump outs are still being done today, right?”

Contee: “There...somebody could be doing a jump out right now and we may not know that. It's not something that's condoned by the department, no.”

Djossou’s claims are backed by former MPD Officer Andrea Latson who retired from the Department in 2020 after 26 years on the force.

“And I've seen it myself when they just jump out on guys that are just standing there not doing anything,” Latson testified during her deposition in Djossou’s lawsuit.

In Latson’s case, she said it wasn’t Contee, but another supervisor who did not act when she reported jump outs on more than 20 separate occasions.

“It was one of those like, 'and your point?'” Latson said. “It was like, 'Whatever. It wasn't nothing serious.'”

In his deposition, Contee said he didn’t investigate Charlotte Djossou’s jump out claims because they weren’t specific enough despite an in-person meeting and a follow up email from Djossou.

Contee: “I don’t have any specific actionable -- in this email I don’t see anything specific actionable from Sergeant Djossou that says, hey, here is where they did a jump out.”

Bernabei: “Is that her job to tell you what to do?”

Contee: “Of course. She’s a Sergeant on the Metropolitan Police Department.”

Bernabei: “So, she’s supposed to direct you what to do?”

Contee: “She’s an official of the Metropolitan Police Department and if she observes misconduct it’s her responsibility to report the misconduct.”

In her own deposition Djossou said did she gave Contee specifics in that 2018 meeting.

“Yes, I was like this was misconduct. This was clear misconduct,” Djossou testified. “You know, they don’t have probable cause and they are jumping out on these people in these poor neighborhoods.”

MPD has not responded to repeated requests by WUSA9 for comment about what Chief Contee testified to in his deposition.  And despite his admission he did not further investigate Sgt. Djossou’s claims, Contee stressed the illegal practice of jump outs is prohibited by the department. It would not be tolerated, if the Chief had evidence.

Djossou believes the absence of a jump out investigation by Contee is proof MPD leadership looks the other way.

“That they enable it and they're OK with it. And they allow it,” Djossou said.

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