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Government and People
On December 5, 1997, the City Council Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on whistleblowers in the Metropolitan Police Department. Sergeants Harry Hill and Christopher Sanders had testified before the City Council more than three months earlier -- before the Committee on Government Operations on September 25, 1997 -- that they had been forced to submit false time and attendance sheets for Detective Ulysses Walltower, a friend of Mayor Barry's and a long-time member of the Mayor's security detail. Their testimony at that time detailed their efforts to get MPD officials to investigate this matter and the subsequent personal retaliation they suffered within the Department.
During the December 5th hearing, it was learned that many of the individuals who had been responsible for allowing this practice to go on had since retired from the Department. They include former Chief of Police Larry D. Soulsby, Deputy Commander Carolyn Boggs, Lieutenant Lowell Duckett, and Detective Ulysses Walltower. If the Council decides to pursue this matter, it will have to resort to issuing subpoenas to force the testimony of these individuals.
Councilmembers Patterson and Ambrose suggested that the falsification of time, attendance, and overtime records in the MPD may be fairly widespread and unchecked.
Good afternoon. My name is Christopher Sanders and I am a Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Department. I have been with the MPD since 1990. This is my friend Harry Hill who is also a Sergeant with the Department. We would like to thank the Council and Councilmember Evans for this opportunity to testify regarding our experience as employees who object to illegal practices.
Sgt. Harry Hill and I were whistleblowers and we were retaliated against for refusing to illegally certify on payroll records that an employee was present and working and for reporting the illegal conduct to superior officers.
I never intended to be a whistleblower. I had always been more than satisfied with my job and with the Metropolitan Police Department. However, in 1996 Sgt. Hill and I decided that we had no choice, and our decisions have had profound effects on our careers.
In November 1996, Sgt. Hill and I were asked to join the Special Emphasis Unit, called the "SEW" in the positions of first line supervisors. We understood that this was a brand new, high profile unit designed to combat violent gang activity associated with illegal narcotics, and we were excited about this opportunity because we had spent our careers battling the problem of drugs in D.C. We viewed this appointment as a reward for our hard work.
Detective Ulysses Walltower was also one of the original members of the SEU. His role was unclear to Sgt. Hill and me and it immediately became evident that he was not reporting to work for SEU. It was part of our responsibility to ensure that accurate time records of our subordinates were maintained according to Departmental Regulations. Since we never saw Mr. Walltower on the job and, in fact, had never even met our "subordinate" we did not put any time next to his name in the record books.
This became a problem for Lt. Lowell K. Duckett, our supervisor. He told us repeatedly to not worry about the fact that Walltower was a no-show and just to carry him on the book for day work. Sgt. Hill and I respectfully refused. Even though we refused to put him in the record books, we knew he was getting paid. Amazingly, Walltower was even paid overtime on occasion although to our knowledge he never worked an hour in SEU.
Our refusals to break regulations lead to tensions in the Unit. Lt. Duckett spread rumors about us, telling our subordinates that we were not team players.
We soon discussed the problem with the Inspector who was Duckett's superior in Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, of which SEU was a part. Although she expressed concern about Walltower's status, the Inspector told us that her hands were tied because of the close relationship between Duckett, Walltower and Mayor Barry.
We then raised the issue of Walltower's status with the Deputy Chief. He told us that Walltower not showing up "would not look good" and that "we had to get him down to the office to at least answer phones or something."
Meanwhile, Lt. Duckett began to retaliate against us. He wrote identical memos proposing to remove Sgt. Hill and me because he alleged that our performance was inadequate and we "needed supervision." As a result, Sgt. Hill was removed from the unit in January 1997 and placed in the boy's and girls club. For some reason I was not removed, but I was subjected to physical threats from Duckett. He told me that I did not know who I was dealing with and that he would take me out into the alley and that only he would come back into the office. Fearing for my safety I asked to be transferred.
We raised these issues at the highest levels of the Department. Sgt. Hill and I were then told that the Chief knew what was going on but that the Chief was not in a position to do anything because he may have to rule on it. We were later told that if Walltower had just shown up this never would have become a problem.
We then took our concerns to the US attorney's office. Still no action was taken and, in fact, our visit became public knowledge in spite of our pleas that our visit remain confidential for fear of further retaliation.
We went to Internal Affairs and, as far as we knew, no immediate action was taken.
After seeking legal counsel we were advised to contact the FBI. The FBI contacted Internal Affairs and an investigation commenced. Nonetheless, we were treated like criminals during the investigation and made to feel like we had done something wrong.
Then, to our surprise, the issue of Walltower showed up on the front page of the Washington Post. In the article Lt. Duckett was quoted as calling Sgt. Hill and me disgruntled employees who were transferred for disciplinary reasons and that our charges against him and Walltower were racially motivated. We were forbidden to respond because IAD forced us to sign a confidentiality order but Duckett could speak freely while the Department took no action to prevent him from making attacks on our character and integrity.
The charge that Sgt. Hill and I were not doing good jobs was bad enough but the additional groundless accusation that we were racist was the most disturbing. Besides being untrue it had the effect of destroying the goodwill we enjoy with our peers on the department and the citizens we serve.
Sgt. Hill and I still work under a cloud. Neither of us serve in positions that are consistent with our past careers of fighting illegal drugs. We are viewed with suspicion by our fellow officers, many of who consider us rats. Some citizens, many of whom considered me a friend, now make comments that I am a racist based upon Lt. Duckett's personal attacks on Sgt. Hill's and my character and integrity. The Department has done nothing to remove this cloud from our heads.
None of this should have happened, and we believe that the proposed whistleblower legislation will send a clear message to the MPD and the entire district government that retaliation against persons who report violations of law, misuse of public funds, or other abuse of authority will not be tolerated. It is important that supervisors understand that they can be subject to discipline and possible termination for taking or acquiescing to retaliatory actions. It is also important that whistleblowers who are victims of retaliation have some remedy in court for the disruption to their careers and the emotional distress resulting from the retaliation, just as victims of discrimination do.
Sgt. Hill and I urge the council to pass the Whistleblower Reinforcement Act of 1997.
My name is Harry Hill. I would like to thank the City Council and Councilmember Evans for giving me an opportunity for expressing my views on the "Whistleblower Reinforcement Act of 1997."
Sgt. Sanders has covered accurately the facts as they occurred and my own comments will be brief. Based on my painful personal experiences it is all too evident to me that employees who do the right thing in the District government need protection from their superiors. As a supervisor in SEU, I chose not to falsify time records. I was just doing my job. In return for performing my duties I was subjected to ongoing harassment; removed from the Unit on baseless charges that remain as a stain on my otherwise unblemished record; and I was called a disgruntled and a racist in the in.newspapers, all with the acquiescence of the Department. As a result, I am now viewed with suspicion and distrust by my peers and the citizens I serve.
I applaud the bill we are discussing today. It will send a message that employees of the District who do the right thing should not be exposed to retaliation and I strongly encourage the passage of the Whistle Blower Reinforcement Act.
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