- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2011

A ruling by a Metropolitan Police Department disciplinary panel not to terminate an officer accused of dating a drug dealer was changed and the officer was fired after police officials told the panel about evidence that had not been presented at the officer’s hearing, according to a sworn affidavit and an appeal in the case.

In an affidavit Thursday, Sgt. Raymond Middleton, a witness in the case, said that after an evidentiary hearing and a vote to suspend the officer for 10 days, Capt. Michelle Williams told him she and the other panel members “had been called back downtown” and told of new evidence that “caused them to terminate” the officer.

“Capt. Williams stated that she felt bad about that decision,” the affidavit states, “and that she had done everything she could” to prevent the firing.

Officer Micheaux Bishop was fired in February as a result of a complaint brought by Cherita Whiting, a campaign consultant turned political appointee for Mayor Vincent C. Gray. Ms. Whiting knew Ms. Bishop and the drug dealer she had been dating, Omar Bowman, from the neighborhood where they were living.

The Metropolitan Police Department dismissed Ms. Whiting’s complaint in December 2009 for a lack of evidence that Ms. Bishop knew Bowman was a drug dealer, according to internal affairs documents. But when Ms. Whiting heard that her name had surfaced in her neighborhood as the complainant, she became angry, the documents state.

Ms. Bishop was then charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and disclosing the name of a witness. After an evidentiary hearing, she was issued a firing notice that contained an additional charge of lying about her relationship with Bowman after learning that he had been indicted.

Internal affairs documents show that the FBI and Metropolitan Police Department drug task force investigators never named Ms. Bishop as a suspect of any wrongdoing or a person of interest in the underlying drug investigation, which resulted in a five-year prison sentence for Bowman.

Ms. Bishop has charged that the police department violated her due process rights and argued in her appeal that the case against her was influenced by a personal relationship between Ms. Whiting and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, whom Ms. Whiting referred to in recorded interviews and testimony as “Kathy” or “Kat.”

In a previous appeal, Ms. Bishop asked Chief Lanier to recuse herself from the case because of a “close” relationship with Ms. Whiting, who has long been a community activist in Ward 4, where Chief Lanier once served as a commander.

Chief Lanier has not responded to requests for comment. Ms. Whiting, who recently left her employment with the District after telling The Washington Times she failed to disclose a 2001 felony wire fraud conviction, declined through her attorney, A. Scott Bolden, to comment.

In a recent letter to The Washington Times, Chief Lanier criticized the newspaper for “publishing the identity of an anonymous complainant” and with undermining public safety efforts. She also accused Ms. Bishop of “disclosure of confidential information to a convicted drug dealer.”

However, Ms. Whiting, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner, is identified throughout the record of the case, including in her original complaint. A Metropolitan Police Department official was demoted for releasing her name to Ms. Bishop after the initial charges were tossed.

In addition, in a March 30 letter to Chief Lanier, lawyer James Pressler, who represents Ms. Bishop, argued that Ms. Whiting was not an anonymous complainant as the chief claimed. A hearing transcript and internal affairs documents show that a panel member attempted to grant Ms. Whiting anonymity after she threatened to complain to Chief Lanier. That decision was overruled and Ms. Whiting testified in her own name, the hearing transcript shows.

“It is simply wrong on the facts for you to represent that this was an anonymous complaint,” Mr. Pressler wrote.

Mr. Pressler said there was no evidence to show that Ms. Bishop disclosed any information to the drug dealer.

Ms. Bishop’s initial appeal stated that the director of the police department’s disciplinary branch, Inspector Michael Eldridge, played a role in persuading the panel to reverse its ruling and fire her. The most recent appeal states that after voting to suspend Ms. Bishop for 10 days, the panel was “called back downtown” and told of videotapes that allegedly showed Ms. Bishop lied when she testified she had ended her relationship with Bowman after learning he had been indicted.

No videotapes were introduced as evidence in the case, the appeal states.

The appeal argues that the affidavit by Sgt. Middleton, which identifies Sgt. LaToyia Heath as a witness to his conversation with Capt. Williams, presents evidence that “the decision-making process in the Bishop case was tainted and fatally corrupted” by the introduction of new evidence after the hearing was closed, and that the decision to fire Ms. Bishop violates her constitutional right to due process.

Inspector Eldridge declined to comment. Capt. Williams and her fellow panel members, Capt. Will Goodwin and Cmdr. George Kucik, did not return calls for comment.

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