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D.C. police department faces scrutiny over firings
Question of the Day
And under the collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, “the Chief of Police is the final decision maker for the MPD in adverse action cases.” Veteran lawyers who represent police officers insist there are limits to the firing authority of Chief Lanier and her subordinates.
In 2009, former MPD officer DeVon Goldring of the 6th District was involved in a domestic incident with the mother of his child. Maryland court records show that Mr. Goldring and the woman, Bianca Warren, obtained peace orders and pressed assault charges against each other as a result of the incident, which stemmed from a child custody dispute.
The Maryland state’s attorney declined to prosecute the matter, the records state, and Mr. Goldring was referred for anger management classes. Ms. Warren did not return calls for comment.
After the incident, the MPD’s Internal Affairs Division conducted its own investigation and brought charges against Mr. Goldring for being involved with an incident that would have been a crime had he been convicted, and with conduct unbecoming an officer.
Acknowledging Mr. Goldring’s shared responsibility for the “regrettable” incident, and noting his sincerity “in ensuring that this type of situation never occurs again,” the trial board said that, based on his unblemished record, previous commendations and testimony from his peers and superiors, a 21-day suspension without pay was warranted.
Among the testimony submitted on Mr. Goldring’s behalf was a letter from his acting district commander, Capt. Regis Bryant, who stated that Mr. Goldring was “the best all-around officer” that he had seen since 2007.
“I disagree with the panel’s recommendation of the 21-day penalty,” she wrote. “[It] does not take into account the egregious nature of your conduct.”
Since he was fired in November, Mr. Goldring has found it difficult to find work. A married father of five who is a few credits shy of a criminal justice degree from Howard University, he says he’d be willing to explore other careers, but that his heart is in police work.
Marc Wilhite, the lawyer who represents Mr. Goldring and many other officers fired by Ms. Walton, says that based on previous cases he has handled, the law is on their side. In an email to The Times, he said Chief Lanier’s subordinates have increased trial board penalties in at least a dozen cases.
And based on the outcomes of some of those cases, and on other cases that predate her command, he said the rate of reinstatement of officers fired in spite of the findings of a trial board is about 80 percent.
Mr. Wilhite said the architect of the trial board rejection and firing process is former Assistant Chief Shannon Cockett, who was assigned to the Human Resources Division under Chief Lanier’s predecessor, Charles H. Ramsey, now the commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.
He recalled that Chief Lanier’s former head of human resources, Commander Jennifer Greene, hardly ever overturned trial board decisions, but that in 2008, Ms. Walton, a civilian, replaced her. “Immediately thereafter, Ms. Haines Walton and the Department began to increase the Trial Board Panel’s decisions,” he wrote.
In an appeal of the firing of former officer Khalela Dixon, who a trial board found “Not Guilty” of misconduct after she got into an altercation with a suspect who was being arrested in possession of PCP, Mr. Wilhite wrote, “The decision by Director Haines Walton is unjustified and oversteps her authority.”
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By Andrew P. Napolitano
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