- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The D.C. police chief’s new five-year contract explicitly states that she is protected from civil and criminal lawsuits and drops a paragraph about collective bargaining at the center of a lawsuit brought by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Including an indemnification clause, which means Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier cannot be held liable for actions done on the job, is standard practice in contracts for police chiefs and other government officials, said Leonard A. Matarese, a public safety expert with the International City/County Management Association.

However, Chief Lanier’s previous contract did not include one. Although police officers are already protected by law from loss and damage claims when acting within the scope of their employment, the fact that the clause was added gives pause to the FOP’s chairman.

“Talk about a red flag,” FOP Chairman Kristopher Baumann said. “That is a sign that someone is very concerned about her personal liability and the things she has done.”

The contract states the District “shall defend, indemnify and hold harmless” Chief Lanier in any civil or criminal proceedings so long as she was “properly exercising or performing her duties and responsibilities within the scope of her employment” and “acted in good faith, did not act in a way that violates an applicable law, and did not act in an intentionally tortuous manner.”

A spokesman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray called the wording “standard” and said adding it to this contract was simply updating the old contract, which was signed in 2007.

“It’s just been updated,” spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said of the contract. “She’s already covered as police chief.”

The chief’s new contract was signed last week and came a day after the FOP filed a lawsuit to prevent the chief from being involved as management in “making compensation-related decisions in the collective-bargaining process.” Rank-and-file officers last received raises in 2007, and their current collective-bargaining agreement expired at the end of fiscal 2008, Mr. Baumann said.

The new contract drops the clause that stated the chief had “the right to participate in the collective-bargaining process as management of MPD,” though the mayor’s office said Chief Lanier has never participated in compensation negotiations.

“The Office on Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining are the ones that negotiate the compensation, not the chief,” Mr. Ribeiro said. “She is not part of it. … That’s the way it’s been handled. That’s the way it’s going to be handled.”

Mr. Baumann insists that Chief Lanier has been involved and said he thinks the FOP’s lawsuit proves it. An initial scheduling conference in that case is on the calendar for August, according to D.C. Superior Court records.

“I hope this is a sign that the city is going to move her out of that role and we are going to actually start talking with police officers and make some actual progress,” Mr. Baumann said.