One charge against fired officer dropped

Officer asked for Lanier’s recusal; aide signs dismissal

The Metropolitan Police Department has dismissed a charge against an officer it fired in February that accused her of lying about ending her relationship with a drug dealer after learning he had been indicted.

Although two other charges remain, the dismissal came after Officer Michaeux Bishop asked that Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier recuse herself from the case because of her “close” relationship with the complainant, Cherita Whiting, a campaign consultant for Mayor Vincent C. Gray whom the city later hired as a “special assistant.”

The charge was dismissed in response to an appeal filed by Ms. Bishop, although the document was not signed by Chief Lanier but by Assistant Chief Alfred Durham. Ms. Bishop was fired for maintaining a “close” relationship with Omar Bowman after he was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and for lying about the nature of that relationship during her trial board hearing. Bowman was later convicted and sentenced five years in federal prison.

In her appeal, Ms. Bishop argued it was not possible for Chief Lanier, referred to by Ms. Whiting in interviews as “Kat” and “Kathy,” to be unbiased. The appeal also claimed that Chief Lanier’s subordinates committed numerous due process violations such as introducing new evidence, adding a new charge of lying and changing a trial board decision after a hearing was held in the matter.

The March 23 response, delivered to Ms. Bishop’s attorney Friday after a report in The Washington Times, says the Metropolitan Police Department still plans to fire Ms. Bishop, whom Ms. Whiting fingered in 2010 after reading about Bowman’s indictment in a news report.

Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump did not return a call and e-mail seeking comment.

While Chief Durham devotes much of his five-page response to a recitation of Ms. Bishop’s claims on appeal, and to an explanation of why the trial board added the lying charge after her hearing, he then dismisses that charge and upholds two others: that Ms. Bishop exposed Ms. Whiting as a witness and that she continued to see Bowman after being informed he had been indicted.

“Officer Bishop’s renewed association with Omar Bowman, combined with her knowledge of his illegal activities, makes her unfit to be a Metropolitan Police Officer,” Chief Durham wrote.

On Monday, James Pressler, attorney for Ms. Bishop, said he was not satisfied with the decision and pointed out that the police department was firing his client for conduct they claimed she lied about, only to now dismiss the charge of lying about that very same conduct.

“Their main finding, which they added after they held a hearing on the matter, was that she lied, and they’ve now dismissed that charge,” Mr. Pressler said. “The evidence was never there to support an inappropriate relationship and they know it. The whole thing is trumped up.”

Ms. Bishop’s appeal and internal affairs reports said she was not a target or a person of interest in the drug investigation of Bowman.

Mr. Pressler added that the police department’s decision to add a charge after a hearing on the matter is grounds for a new hearing. “They illegally added a charge and, in doing so, irreparably damaged their ability to decide the case in a fair and impartial manner.”

A review of the police personnel file raises questions about the trial board process. The final notice of adverse charges shows the trial board found Ms. Bishop guilty on three charges, although she received a hearing on only two. In addition, a signature line on the final page of the decision is blank, but is followed by a separate page in different typeface with the missing signature filled in.

According to the appeal and a Metropolitan Police Department sergeant who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, one hearing officer told colleagues that Ms. Bishop would not be fired, but the disciplinary branch called panel members and showed them new evidence to support a charge of lying.

Cmdr. George Kucik and Capt. Will Goodwin, two of the panel members, declined to comment. Capt. Michelle Williams, the third panel member, did not return calls for comment.

In his response to the appeal, Chief Durham stated, “There was no ‘Ex Parte’ contact with the panel members following the hearing.” He explained that, according to Inspector Michael Eldridge, director of the disciplinary branch, Cmdr. Kucik inquired after the hearing about the process of adding an additional charge “if the panel determined the [officer] made untruthful statements during the hearing.”

“Otherwise, Inspector Eldridge provided no additional information to the panel that was used to influence their findings,” he said.

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