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Court upholds Lanier’s demotion authority

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Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has the power to demote high-ranking officials without cause or due-process rights such as notice and a hearing, according to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The ruling appears to contradict a series of rulings by arbitrators and the Office of Employee Appeals that reinstated officials demoted by Chief Lanier and awarded them back pay.

On Thursday, Chief Lanier was emboldened by the ruling: "It ensures that officials at the highest level of the department demonstrate the highest level of integrity and judgment to maintain not only my trust, but the trust and safety of the public they serve and the officers they lead," she said in a press release.

Former Cmdr. Hilton Burton was summarily demoted to captain in August after publicly criticizing Chief Lanier about her escort policy in the wake of the Charlie Sheen matter. In 2007, Chief Lanier also demoted then-Cmdr. Burton without cause but later reinstated him.

Capt. Robin Hoey was a commander in the Sixth District in 2007 when Chief Lanier summarily demoted him, even though his work was "highly regarded," according to the court's opinion.

Capts. Hoey and Burton argued that as career service employees who had attained their rank through promotions based on merit they were entitled to the same due-process rights as rank-and-file officers.

But the court ruled that a statute dating to 1919, amended in 2000 and again in 2004, allowed for reduction in rank of officials without cause "notwithstanding" the rules granting due process for career service employees.

Capt. Burton on Thursday said he was weighing his options "to see where to go from here." Capt. Hoey could not be reached. His lawyer, J. Michael Hannon, did not return an email seeking comment.

Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan praised the court's decision, stating that it "preserves the long-standing authority of the mayor and the chief of police to hold the highest-ranking officials in the Metropolitan Police Department to the highest standards."

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