8/30/2013Cop Sues Over DC Speed Camera Program
Police sergeant fights back over speed camera retaliation in Washington, DC.
A veteran police officer is suing the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department after he was punished for blowing the whistle on corruption in the speed camera unit. Sergeant Mark Robinson has spent 23 years on the force, with five years of experience working on the automated traffic enforcement unit. He was kicked off the detail and had his take-home pay slashed for speaking up about what he saw. On Tuesday, Robinson filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia asking for his job back.
Earlier this year, Robinson went public to expose how one of the city's most profitable cameras at the Third Street Tunnel was set to the wrong speed. He also had challenged a ticket on Bladensburg Road in 2011.
"There's some serious issues -- integrity issues with the cameras," Robinson told WTTG-TV in January. "The program manager did not adhere to the minimum performance requirement in those cases."
Robinson's lawsuit alleges the camera program manager, Lisa Sutter, set up speed cameras improperly, voided speed camera tickets for friends, misappropriated $25,000 in government funds and "had an improper relationship with a non-profit organization." After he filed a formal complaint, Sutter lowered the scores on Robinson's performance evaluation and rescinded his supervisory authority in the camera program. In December 2011 he was transfered to the special events unit with his take-home pay cut.
The city code states that supervisors may not take action against an employee because of a "protected" disclosure or a refusal to comply with an illegal order. Robinson is claiming whistleblower status under the statute, citing his public testimony before the city council and in the media.
"Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action when his duties were restricted, when he became the subject of unsubstantiated complaints and ridicule by Ms. Sutter, and when he was involuntarily detailed out to a different branch under the guise of civilianizing the unit, wherein his salary was significantly reduced," Robinson wrote in his complaint. "There is a causal connection between the protected activities and the adverse employment decisions, as they are close in time and proximity, and involve the same people."
Despite providing evidence to internal affairs, the city council and the city's inspector general, none would act on his claim. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, issued him a letter certifying his right to sue the city. He seeks $750,000 in compensation.