Appeals judge dismisses D.C. officers’ case against police department

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The D.C. Court of Appeals has dismissed a long-running case brought by D.C. police officers who claimed they were disciplined for blowing the whistle on what they said was an improper department contract.

Nine current and former Metropolitan Police Department officers claimed in a $15 million lawsuit filed in 2005 that they were disciplined after they spoke out about a contract that allowed the department to have off-duty police officers work security at the Gallery Place mall. The officers, represented by the Fraternal Order of Police, had sought the security jobs themselves but MPD denied some of their requests for approval of the secondary employment and negotiated its own contract with mall personnel to provide security.

The D.C. Court of Appeals also ruled that the officers were not entitled to make allegations of misconduct under the District’s Whistleblower Protection Act while “remaining intentionally ignorant of whether the facts actually support those allegations,” according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.

The decision angered the FOP, which contends that the ruling now sets the bar astronomically high for government workers to qualify for whistleblower protection.

“Under the court’s view unless you can prove you have specific, detailed knowledge about all of the bad behavior the government is involved in at the time you seek to make disclosures and gain the law’s protection — you are not a whistleblower,” FOP Chairman Kristopher Baumann said in a statement issued Friday. “As the District wades through public corruption scandal after public corruption scandal — the D.C. Court of Appeals has just made it that much easier for the unethical to thrive in the District government.”

The D.C. Court of Appeals ruling overturned a previous jury verdict that would have given one officer $12,000 in back pay and damages and the FOP $430,000 in attorneys’ fees.

“It is unfortunate that the FOP exhausts member resources on lawsuits with no merit,” Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in a statement. “I wish we could refocus some of that energy on cooperatively working to enhance our outstanding police department, serve the city, and support the interests of all of our police officers.”

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