WHEN OFFICER WILLIAM CHATMAN, of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, walked into the atrium of the D.C. Superior Court on May 21, heads turned. A few minutes earlier, he had testified in the trial of four people accused of rioting in downtown Washington during Donald Trump’s inauguration; it was the second trial group to face a jury. In accordance with Metro Police rules, Chatman had pulled another “cover shirt” over his uniform after concluding his testimony.
Chatman is a big man, thickly built and broad-shouldered, with a slight paunch and shaved head. What caught the attention of those assembled in the courthouse, however, was not his imposing size, but the text on the back of his off-white T-shirt. Under an image of a nightstick enlaced with a pair of handcuffs, it read, in capital letters, “Police brutality … or doing what their parents should have?”
“I was absolutely horrified,” said Andy Switzer, a former defendant from Philadelphia whose charges were dismissed in January, “that a police witness would have the gall to wear that shirt in a courthouse, immediately after offering testimony about brutal police behavior. It’s startling.”
The shirt, which was photographed by a defense attorney, may violate D.C. police rules that prohibit officers from wearing clothing that contains language “of a social, economic or political nature that might be considered as an advocacy statement, or which might create controversy.” A D.C. officer was disciplined in October 2017 for visiting the same courthouse wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of his police unit, the Grim Reaper, and a pre-Christian cross favored by white supremacists.