WASHINGTON – District of Columbia officers who gave a police escort with sirens and flashing lights to actor Charlie Sheen from a northern Virginia airport to a city performance did not violate department policies, according to a new report that calls such escorts a routine and accepted practice.
The 82-page report issued this week by the city's Office of Inspector General appears to conflict with statements from Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who has said the April 19 escort from Dulles International Airport to DAR Constitution Hall broke with police protocol.
The ride given to Sheen, which attracted attention after the fired "Two and a Half Men" actor wrote about it on his Twitter account, led to dueling accounts from the chief and department members about whether escorts for celebrities and non-dignitaries were standard practice in the agency. Besides the inspector general's review, the police department has been conducting an internal affairs investigation into celebrity escorts and the D.C. Council heard testimony last month from Lanier and the special operations division commander, among others.
The report concludes that the "approval and performance of the Sheen escort was not extraordinary," though it does say the officers should have coordinated with police in Virginia — where the airport is based.
The report's authors also said they could not independently verify that the officers who escorted Sheen were speeding, even though the actor posted a picture on his Twitter account that appeared to show a speedometer registering about 80 mph with the message, "In car with Police escort in front and rear! Driving like someone's about to deliver a baby! Cop car lights (hash)Spinning!"
Lanier has said police policy would not generally permit celebrities to be escorted at a high speed with flashing lights and sirens.
The report was prepared by the office of Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby. It makes 11 recommendations for escorts of non-dignitaries, including ensuring that Washington's police department collaborates with neighboring law-enforcement agencies and creating a clear, department-wide directive for escorts and reimbursable details.
Lanier told The Associated Press in an email that the department's policy has been consistent in barring celebrity escorts without the prior approval of an assistant chief.
"Just because these folks got caught and claimed they didn't know about the General Order does not excuse the fact that they violated the policy," Lanier wrote.
She also took issue with the report's findings that celebrity escorts, if properly organized, can play a part in generating positive attention and revenue for the city.
"Using police cars to escort celebrities, even if we are compensated, is inappropriate and brings unnecessary liability to the city," Lanier said.
Hilton Burton, the commander of the Special Operations Division, which provided the escort, said he felt that he and his officers had been vindicated by the report. A lieutenant and captain involved in the Sheen escort were transferred out of the special operations division last month, though Lanier has said the moves weren't connected to the escort.
The escort was handled by officers who were off-duty and the ride was reimbursed at a cost of roughly $445, police said.
After the Sheen escort was first reported, Lanier said escorts were generally reserved for the president, vice president and visiting heads of state and the mayor, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis.
But some police officials subsequently criticized Lanier for refusing to acknowledge that escorts were commonly made available upon request for celebrities and other non-dignitaries.
Lanier said last month her department has identified 17 celebrities, including Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, who have been escorted by police in the last decade. She said dozens of other escorts — including to college and professional sports teams and their owners, visiting dignitaries, Santa Claus impersonators and the Cherry Blossom Princess — have been granted during the same time.