[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Charles Moose: Controversial police chief
There are few greater testimonies to one's fame than being played by an actor in a film.

Police Chief Charles Moose
Charles Moose led the manhunt
In October, the character of Chief Charles Moose, the Montgomery police chief who led the investigation into the Washington DC area sniper killings, will appear in a film dramatising the attacks which terrorised the area in 2002.

The killings transformed Mr Moose from an obscure local police chief into an international name.

He is reported to have been paid $170,000 to write his new book - Three Weeks in October - but his fame has not come without controversy.

Balancing act

Mr Moose was the public face of the investigation into the sniper attacks, which left 10 people dead and three injured.

As such, he was often first in line for criticism from the media over the police handling of the case, and its failure to catch the killer before 13 people were shot.

He opted for a precarious balancing act: at times reluctant to reveal information to the public through fear of jeopardising what he saw as a fledgling relationship with the killer.

His disinclination to tell parents that the sniper had indicated children were targets until pressed by the media prompted widespread anger, while the chief felt that the media's eagerness for information was tantamount to interference.

The enduring impression however, it was widely agreed, was of an officer who appeared committed and persistent in the face of the ongoing attacks.

Nonetheless, his decision to write a book about his experiences has sparked a heated debate.

Decision time

Earlier in 2003, the Montgomery County ethics commission ruled Mr Moose could not write a book about the case and remain its police chief. A public employee should not use the prestige of office for private gain, the board ruled.

Mr Moose and his publishers want to take advantage of the upcoming trials to help sell books
Peter Greenspun
Defence lawyer
As a result, he decided to leave his job, although not before filing lawsuits to try to overturn the decision.

Attorneys from both the prosecution and the defence have subsequently weighed in, expressing their concern about what he might reveal about the case and how it could compromise the forthcoming trials, and also accusing the former police chief of shameless publicity.

"Mr Moose and his publishers want to take advantage of the upcoming trials to help sell books. The timing of all this makes it clear that it is all about money," said Peter Greenspun, the lawyer representing John Allen Muhammad, the elder of the suspects.

In fact, his book reveals very little new information about the details of the case, relaying instead the impact the killings and criticism of his department's handling of the case had on Mr Moose and his profound distaste for the media's involvement in the investigation.

Indeed, critics agree, it is more an account of himself, and what he sees as a life blighted by racism.

Writing about racism

In chapters which alternate between those three weeks in October 2002 and his personal history, the book tells the story of his childhood in North Carolina and his rise through the ranks of the Portland, Oregon police bureau, where he became the first African-American police chief.

He attended a racially segregated school, and recalls as a child seeing his father turned away from white-only restaurants.

While he did reach the top in Portland, Mr Moose writes that on his way up he felt he was constantly held back due to "an atmosphere of thinly veiled hostility to blacks".

And he describes a series of recent incidents of alleged discrimination.

Moose's career
Began career in 1975 as a patrol officer
Holds doctorate and Masters degrees
Taught criminal justice at Oregon State University
Served as police chief of Portland, Oregon from 1993 to 1999
One involved another police officer, another a hotel in Arizona, a third concerned a riding instructor in Hawaii, and a fourth in Mississippi, where Mr Moose was applying for a job.

Reports also say he has reached a settlement with the Marriott Hotel in Hawaii, where he alleged he and his wife had been victims of racial discrimination.

According to the Washington Post, Mr Moose asked for $200,000 in compensation from the hotel chain but eventually settled for $10,000.

Some of those critics who have attacked his decision to publish the book have seized on this story, portraying him as a publicity seeker driven by money.

Mixed messages

Mr Moose makes clear in his book that his experience as a black man in the US - where so many death row convicts are black - has also had an impact on how he views the trials of John Lee Muhammad and his younger suspected accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo.

"I don't think there was a lot of cheering in the black community that these guys were going to go on trial in a death penalty state," he writes.

He also makes clear his feelings towards the media.

He recently said to two reporters: "I respect the fact that you're not a criminal and I'm glad you're working, but I don't really like what you do."

But while he may have wished the media elsewhere as he was pursuing his investigation, Mr Moose has now become a staple of US chat shows.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific