D.C. Police Department Not Informed of Asbestos in Its Headquarters

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) claims it did not receive any notifications alerting them of asbestos or its removal to take place at the department’s headquarters. It wasn’t until officers showed up for work this week that a sign was posted to the front door saying asbestos removal was happening.

The asbestos was discovered in the Daly building in Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham’s office and in one other office on the fifth floor under the floor tiles.

The city claims the MPD was notified on March 23, but the Police Union has no record of this.

“I don’t know why that is the case [the Police Union not being made aware of the asbestos work] because we did notify the tenants,” said Deputy Director for Facilities with the D.C. Department of General Services Spencer Davis.

“I’ve not received anything. I’ve received probably a couple dozen emails with pictures of the front door of the building and the concerns that the officers and civilians have at this point,” said Chairman of the Safety Committee for the D.C. Police Union Robert Underwood.

Holding a police officer position makes you more likely to be exposed to asbestos throughout the duration of your career and therefore you have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma cancer.

Washington D.C. has a lengthy history of renovation and construction making it a high-risk candidate for asbestos exposure. According to the Government Accountability Office, the low-paid workers who service HVAC and water lines underneath the buildings of Capitol Hill have been exposed to asbestos fibers for years.

Exempted from the same worker rights and protections granted to employees in almost all other industries, these workers, who report to the Architect of the Capitol, finally appealed directly to Congress and the media.

Their plight was finally acknowledged and some protections and compensation were provided, but for most, it was too little too late. Medical exams showed many having the “lungs of old men.”

Workers at the Washington Navy Yard were ironically exposed to asbestos from the protective equipment meant to prevent them from injury. Steel and iron workers would wear gloves, bibs, and coveralls, which were lined with asbestos that could become loose if their clothing was ripped or worn.

The Police Union may not have received the news of asbestos discovery and work before the sign was posted to the front door, but the city of D.C. believes all asbestos has been found and the rest of the MPD building is safe.