Metropolitan Police Department

The First Sting

Lt. Robert Arscott and the Operation Sting team sit amid stolen goods

In 1976 D.C. police dressed as cartoon Mafiosos and bought millions in stolen goods from local thieves. They called it "Operation Sting," and soon police across the country were launching "sting operations" of their own. But not everyone was so enamored with the tactic, especially the communities it was being used to target.

National Guard patrols Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. (Source: Library of Congress)

John Layton, the M.P.D., and the 1968 Washington Riots

By the time John Layton was named Metropolitan Police Chief in 1964, there was a well-established undercurrent of hostility between the Police Department and Washington's inner city African American community. Layton added resources to the Community Relations Unit and promoted the first African American to the rank of Captain. He created a Public Information Division to better coordinate communications with the public and the media. And, in an effort to recognize the African American community’s complaints about police brutality and harassment, the chief went on record that the Metropolitan police department would not rely on lethal force should they need to put down a riot.

Layton’s actions were put to the test on April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN that day, and when word reached Washington, D.C., angry crowds began gathering in the streets.