NBC News4 in Washington reports that the criminal investigation into who drew a mustache on the official portrait of D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has apparently been closed, and that no charges will be filed in the incident.
So far there is no evidence that department response times were affected by this investigation.
The defacery reportedly occurred at Engine No. 10 in D.C.’s Northeast area. According to NBC’s report (“Mustache on Photo of Chief Draws Fire”), sources said someone had drawn a mustache on the official photo (right) of Ellerbe that hangs there, and even more disturbingly, had turned it upside down. The same miscreant, or an ally, then recorded a resulting lecture delivered by a deputy chief and a lieutenant.
“The reason I asked who handled the picture is because there are going to be some charges,” one of the officials can be heard saying on the recording, which was leaked to NBC. “At that point,” he threatened, “[it’s] whatever the fire chief decides to do, because at that point you’re at his mercy.” Apparently no one was willing to confess, because matters then escalated.
Police were called, a formal crime report was filed (“destruction of property”), and evidence technicians apparently dusted the photo for fingerprints.
None of the reports actually state that the chief himself demanded the police investigation or was otherwise involved in any way, and that’s certainly the position he took on Thursday. “I heard about it,” he told a reporter, “but it’s probably just something that’s blown out of proportion. I talked to our internal affairs [department], told them don’t even worry about it.” He continued, “[P]utting mustaches on pictures is not one of those high-priority items.” This could be after-the-fact spin, of course; you may want to watch the NBC interview to evaluate his credibility for yourself.
No actual image of the altered photo seems to exist, and unfortunately NBC was not in fact so childish as to add one to the photo on its website (above). The DCist blog has its own interpretation; I prefer mine but everyone is entitled to their own preference when it comes to fake-mustache styles.