Friday, December 19

FENTY SHOWING BUSH LIKE CONTEMPT FOR LAW

Bill Myers DC Examiner - A key D.C. councilwoman expressed concern Wednesday about a new executive order from Mayor Adrian Fenty that appears to grant Police Chief Cathy Lanier broad authority to issue subpoenas. The order, signed quietly by Fenty last month and posted on the city's Web site last week, gives the chief the power to probe "any municipal matter" and allows Lanier to delegate her subpoena power "to her subordinates."

Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, a constitutional law professor and former prosecutor, wrote a letter Wednesday to Fenty, asking him to explain the order.

"I have grave concerns over the prospect that this authority may serve as an attempt to make an end-run around the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement," Cheh wrote in the letter, obtained by The Examiner. "To permit the chief of police to issue subpoenas would essentially convert the Metropolitan Police Department into a form of Grand Jury."

Rank-and-file members of the police department are worried that the chief will use her new powers to hunt down dissenters, union official Delroy Burton told The Examiner. "It's an extraordinarily broad authority and it's dangerous," Burton said. "It's unprecedented."

D.C. only has the authority to prosecute misdemeanors and juvenile offenses. Otherwise, it must rely on the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate crimes and to issue subpoenas.

Tim Lynch, a criminal law expert at the Cato Institute, called the subpoena order "mind-boggling." . . . "This is an extraordinary development," he said. "It places the liberty of every business person or D.C. resident in the hands of a police officer."

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Art Spitzer said the order violates citizens' Fourth Amendment rights. "The chief could use this power as if she were a grand jury and force people to come in to testify," Spitzer said. "I'd be concerned."

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