Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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D.C. Didn’t Mistreat Cops on Private Security Gigs

(CN) - Eight police officers did not prove that the District of Columbia retaliated against them in violation of a whistle-blower law, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled.

Officer Martin Freeman and seven colleagues had hoped in 2004 to work as off-duty security officers at the newly opened Gallery Place mall in downtown Washington.

When the Metropolitan Police Department snared the contract to provide security, the officers complained to the police chief and the mayor that the department's actions had been illegal.

They say that the department then retaliated against them for their complaints by refusing to let them work on the mall security force.

In a subsequent lawsuit, the officers claimed that the department and Metropolitan Police Department Commander Cathy Lanier disciplined them, or threatened them with discipline, in violation of the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act.

Lanier is now the chief of police.

Only one of the officers, Sean McLaughlin, found relief from the jury, which awarded him $12,000 in damages.

The D.C. Court of Appeals overturned that award and sided with the district in every respect Thursday.

"McLaughlin never claimed to have had first-hand knowledge of what took place between the MPD and Gallery Place; nor did he claim to have been informed of what took place by any of the direct participants or anyone else who had knowledge of, or who had investigated the circumstances," Judge Stephen Glickman wrote for a three-member panel.

The court noted that Freeman was fired for violating a department ban employment "brokering."

In an investigation of unauthorized off-duty work at Gallery Place, the police department had found that the mall paid Freeman and five other officers for security work there, and that Freeman had accepted two 10 percent bonuses.

Though the officers maintained in a letterthat the department was also illegally brokering, the appeals court found that the department operates under a different set of rules.

"The letter's claim that the statutory prohibition of brokering forbade MPD officials from arranging to provide a reimbursable detail to Gallery Place is plainly without merit," Glickman wrote. "The statutory prohibition applies only to private brokering of off-duty employment and does not prohibit the MPD from offering to provide or providing a reimbursable detail."

The other four officers also failed to prove retaliation because the department had prevented them from working at Gallery Place before complained about mistreatment.

"The MPD could not have retaliated against appellants for disclosures that had not yet been made," Glickman wrote.

The MPD's approval of some officers to work at Gallery Place also did not indicate "a vendetta against any of those officers or any significant financial or other incentive to secure a reimbursable detail for the MPD at their expense," according to the ruling.

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