Loose Lips

Police Sergeant Sues District Over Traffic-Camera Whistleblowing

The District is set to expand its lucrative traffic camera program with new cameras to catch drivers. But in a lawsuit filed Tuesday, one Metropolitan Police Department officer says his attempts to fix the cameras resulted in retaliation so serious that he eventually lost his home.

Sgt. Mark Robinson's woes began in 2010, according to his lawsuit, when he told the department that his supervisor in MPD's automated traffic enforcement unit was misappropriating money. That earned him a series of punishments from his supervisor, according to the lawsuit.

But Robinson's problems escalated in July 2012, according to his lawsuit, when he told D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson about problems with traffic cameras. Contacting Mendelson and appearing in media reports led to more whistleblowing retaliation, Robinson says. In October, he says, he was told that he could no longer be paid for overtime work.

"He thinks that the city can still make a lot of money off of it when it's done properly, instead of screwing over D.C. residents," says Jennifer L. Bezdicek, his attorney. Robinson lost his house because of the lack of overtime pay, according to Bezdicek.

Robinson, who's been detailed out of the unit in charge of traffic cameras, is suing the city for $750,000 for violations of civil rights and whistleblower protections. A spokesman for the District's Office of the Attorney General, which handles lawsuits filed against the city, declined to comment.

Photo by dlofink via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License

  • Typical DC BS

    Maybe Officer Robinson shouldn't depend on overtime in order to afford his mortgage?

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  • Dennis

    Yeah, that was one of my knee-jerk reactions too, but at the same time, maybe the legal costs ate away at his non-overtime earnings and they said it poorly? Either way, I have to agree with his lawyer's comment that "the city can still make a lot of money off of it when it's done properly, instead of screwing over D.C. residents."

  • George

    In many public safety positions, overtime can account for over half of a worker's take-home pay. So that's kind of like saying, a server shouldn't have been counting on tips to pay their rent.

  • Typical DC BS

    @George: Understood about the overtime for public service folks. But relying on it just to make ends meet isn't smart.

    I get a year-end bonus that can be anywhere from 10% to 20% of my yearly salary. However, I've learned not to "count" on it for anything important, as I've also had it withheld due to the recession, poor company performance, etc. a few times over the years.

  • dcgurlie

    Regardless of whether he counts on his overtime or not to pay his mortgage, it is illegal to do things improperly "screwing over DC residents" and then retaliating against him by moving him into another unit because he exposed the wrongdoing and then taking away his overtime, while still giving it to other people. That's ridiculous and we've learned to expect here in DC. Sounds like he was trying to do the right thing, which can be rare for a police officer. I commend him.

  • DC

    Oh please, this guy is not a whistleblower. He's a cop who got two speeding tickets and tried to get off on a technicality. That technicality? The camera was set at TOO HIGH a threshold due to the fact that they hadn't been changed to reflect the fact there was a work zone. So Mr. Hero Whistleblower was indisputably breaking the law, as was the thousands of other assholes who would rather bitch about speed cameras instead of slowing down in a FUCKING WORK ZONE.

    Fuck him and his financial mismanagement.

  • George

    @ Typical, yeah if that made the difference between paying the mortgage and not, maybe he could have budgeted better.

    But anyway, even if he had, if it was really retaliation for whistleblowing, I think it's not okay and he deserves compensation. All depends on the facts of the case though of course...

  • truth hurts

    "In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, one MPD officer says his attempts to fix the cameras resulted in retaliation so serious that he eventually lost his home."

    LL, most commentators are scratching their heads, thinking the cop's claim about losing his home because management denied him overtime is a stretch ..... one that undermines the guy's credibility (or judgment).

    I was among the doubters, so I read the complaint. I don't see a word about losing his home. Do you, LL?

  • dcgurlie

    Anyone who comments should read the complaint first to actually have knowledge of what they are talking about. No, the complaint doesn't say that, it looks like the attorney said it to the reporter, likely in response to a question about how it affected him financially. So, it's a little misleading. But being taken out of the unit after complaining is clearly retaliation.

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