District of Columbia officers who gave actor Charlie Sheen an escort with flashing lights and sirens did not violate department policies, the city's inspector general said in a report this week. The report calls such escorts routine and accepted practice.
The 82-page report appears to conflict with statements from Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who has said the 27-mile escort from Dulles International Airport to a performance in Washington on April 19 broke with police protocol.
The ride attracted attention after the fired "Two and a Half Men" actor wrote about it on his Twitter account. It led to dueling accounts from the chief and department members about whether escorts for celebrities and non-dignitaries were standard practice.
Besides the inspector general 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 city's Office of Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby concluded that the "approval and performance of the Sheen escort was not extraordinary" and that such security details have been done without fanfare for years. But it faults the overall process for carrying out the details, saying the casual manner in which they're done and documented opens the department to liability if something goes wrong.
The report makes 11 recommendations for escorts of non-dignitaries. It includes ensuring that Washington's police department collaborates with neighboring law-enforcement agencies — which was not done in Sheen's case — and creating a clear, department-wide directive for escorts and reimbursable details.
The Sheen escort was provided after one of his representatives, concerned the actor would be running late for his performance, contacted the police and requested a ride to the concert hall. Two off-duty officers met Sheen at the airport and drove him to the venue. The escort was reimbursed at a cost of roughly $445, representing eight total hours of overtime, police said.
The report's authors 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, "(I)n 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.
She told The Associated Press in an email Wednesday that the department's policy has remained consistent in barring celebrity escorts without the prior approval of an assistant chief. She said she agreed that a single, detailed order was needed "in light of everyone's claim of confusion when they got caught."
"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.
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. Hilton Burton testified last month that escorts were commonly provided. The lieutenant who approved the Sheen escort and a captain were transferred out of the special operations division last month, though the chief has said the moves were not connected to the escort.
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. The Associated Press reported in May that escorts had been given in the last two years alone to public figures including Bill Gates, rapper Jay-Z, singer Taylor Swift and John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
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. But records show 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.