WASHINGTON -- The Metropolitan Police Department’s elite Gun Recovery Unit's (GRU) mission is to get illegal guns off the streets.
But last week, their tactics have come under scrutiny by City Council members at a public safety hearing.
“We're continuing to use a sledgehammer that we don't need to use a sledgehammer for,” said Councilmember at Large David Grosso.
Officer Robert Underwood is the union shop steward at 6D where questionable searches happened.
He was also one of the first officers assigned to the GRU in 2007.
“Every day these guys come to work they're looking down the barrel of a gun,” said Officer Underwood.
When asked about the various cell phone videos and the community concerns that police were targeting African-American men and women, he said: “Perception is everything. Things do look bad and they're seeing 30, 45 second, maybe a minute clip of cellphone video. In a lot of cases they don't know what brought the unit there or what transpired beforehand.”
The GRU has about 30 members chasing down the most violent offenders.
It's the only specialized unit in the whole city since former Chief Cathy Lanier got rid of all seven Vice Units in 2015.
Those so-called jump-out crews came under similar scrutiny for civil rights violations.
The union reps say the City Council is following the same play book and now going after the GRU.
They say getting rid of the unit would be detrimental.
“It's not always going to look pretty, but they're not out there to hurt anybody or disrespect anybody or violate anyone's rights,” said Officer Underwood.
“We can't have a conversation in a vacuum where we act like this is some rogue unit and we don't talk about all the good things they do as well,” added Union Chairman Sgt Stephen Bigelow, Jr.
The GRU got 688 illegal guns off the street in the past two years.
“The numbers don't lie,” said Officer Underwood. "At some point you have to look at an illegal gun off the street as a potential way to save a life.”