- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

The District of Columbia police union has filed a complaint against an officer who spoke critically of Chief Charles H. Ramsey and the former chairman of the organization last month.

Officer Juan Espinal who said his Revolution 2000 organization now represents the concerns of more than 400 members of the 3,600-member Metropolitan Police Department faces expulsion if found guilty during a hearing on a charge of "dual unionism," according to union documents.

Officer Espinal's comments constitute "the active promotion of a rival labor organization contrary to the interests of one's own union," wrote D.C. police Detective Michael W. Johnson, an executive stop steward who filed the complaint in a Sept. 26 letter.

Detective Johnson also wrote that Officer Espinal has "brought discredit" to the union, and his comments "are clearly detrimental" to it. The detective also wrote that only the union can address labor issues.

The Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Labor Committee will conduct a hearing into the matter, according to committee secretary A. Renee Holden in a Sept. 29 letter.

The charge is "without merit," said Officer Espinal, who called it "an attempt by the union to silence me."

An application for Revolution 2000, provided by Officer Espinal, includes a note that states, "this organization is not designed or intended to replace the Fraternal Order of Police."

Instead, Officer Espinal said he started the group "to address the issues and concerns that affect the members of the Metropolitan Police Department that have been brought to management and the union … [who] have failed to address them."

The First Amendment and its right to free speech allows him to speak about labor issues, he said.

"I am extremely confident I will be exonerated," said Officer Espinal, who is discussing a possible lawsuit against the FOP with an attorney.

At a Sept. 6 news conference in front of police headquarters, Officer Espinal accused Chief Ramsey and Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer of mismanaging the department, unfairness and racial discrimination. He also criticized department leadership for mobilizing hundreds of officers following a burst of violence.

Chief Ramsey dismissed the charges as baseless and defended the recent officer deployment plan as important for the public's safety and peace of mind.

In response to the charge of racial discrimination, the chief replied, "I'm black myself, so why would I want to discriminate against other minorities?"

Officer Espinal also has criticized Detective Frank Tracy who served as chairman of the labor committee until Sunday, when his term expired for not standing up to police management in defense of rank-and-file officers.

Sgt. G.G. Neil defeated Detective Tracy in the Aug. 30 union election. Officer Espinal also was a candidate for chairman.

Sgt. Neil said he will consider the matter but added that "I don't like what they're doing" to Officer Espinal.

Sgt. Neil has indicated he agrees with many of Officer Espinal's statements.

Officer Espinal called the timing of the charge against him "suspicious," because he's openly been recruiting for months, and the complaint was made just days before Detective Tracy's term expired as one more chance to get at him.

"This is just a way of trying to intimidate me, to [make me] keep my mouth shut about internal issues in the police department that the community should be aware of," he said.

Detective Tracy denied any ulterior motive, saying Officer Espinal's actions constitute "a roundabout way of trying to start another union."

As for the accusation of suspicious timing, Detective Tracy said he followed procedure and looked into the charges against Officer Espinal with a lawyer.

"I do things when I get ready to do them," he said. "It doesn't matter what he thinks it is."

The union could face more labor-related trouble today. Former labor committee chairman Detective Ronald Robertson is awaiting a decision by a D.C. labor board, expected to be released today, on whether he was improperly kept out of the election ballot in August.

The D.C. Public Employees Relations Board has the power to invalidate the election and order a new one.

An attorney for the labor committee has argued that Detective Robertson was expelled from the union in April, and thus was ineligible to run for chairman.

Detective Robertson said the union's charge against Officer Espinal "is a way of eliminating the competition, and they use it well."

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