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MPD ordered to pay lawyer of wrongly fired officers

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Metropolitan Police Department is being ordered to pay nearly a quarter of a million dollars in attorney's fees to three police officers who were improperly dismissed from the department in 1998.

The officers, all district commanders at the time, were forced to retire by then-interim Police Chief Sonya T. Proctor. The officers, Winfred L. Stanley, former 3rd District commander; Reginald L. Smith Sr., former 5th District commander; and John C. Daniels, former 6th District commander, challenged the decision in court.

In 2008, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled the officers were owed approximately $900,000 in back pay for the last decade and cleared them for reinstatement in the police department, said their attorney, Stephen Leckar. The officers each returned to work on the force for several months after the ruling before retiring with 38 years under their belts, Mr. Leckar said.

On Monday, the District of Columbia's Office of Employee Appeals ordered the police department to pay $223,142 in attorney's fees for the three. Mr. Leckar said about $145,000 has already been paid as a result of a previous ruling, but was happy to finally be collecting the rest.

OEA Senior Administrative Judge Joseph Lim had asked the police department and the officers to try to reach a settlement on the attorney's fees, but were unable to reach an agreement, according to his written decision. Mr. Leckar said MPD's offer was too low.

"I would think the District of Columbia at some point would say it's time to bury the hatchet," Mr. Leckar said.

A police spokeswoman late Tuesday referred calls for comment to the city's Office of the Attorney General.

The 13-year-long courtroom saga began in February 1998 when the three officers were told they were being removed from their positions. Mr. Stanley and Mr. Smith were given just hours to retire or else they would be terminated. Mr. Daniels was given the option of either retiring or taking a demotion as a night supervisor. All three chose to retire in order to save their retirement benefits.

With approximately 40 police officers terminated a year from the department, Kristopher Baumann, the police department's union chairman, said he worries what future litigation in other cases could cost taxpayers if those firings were found to be without merit.

"We have allegations the entire system was without due process," Mr. Baumann said. "It's not hard to fire a police officer the right way in the District of Columbia. The department has done nothing to remedy that situation."

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