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I was disturbed to read your report in the District Line (“Remaining Silent,” 4/24) that some of the Metropolitan Police Department officers who had testified during the hearing on MPD retaliation held by the D.C. Council’s Special Committee on Police Misconduct and Personnel Management had since become the subject of investigations by the Internal Affairs Division of MPD, or had faced other types of what they believed to be retaliation for their testimony before the Council.
It was a similar feeling of disturbance that led me to introduce the D.C. Whistleblower Reinforcement Act on April 1, 1997. The circumstance concerned press reports about retaliation against MPD Sergeants Hill and Sanders for refusing to cooperate with the false filing of time and attendance sheets for former MPD Detective Ulysses Walltower.
I decided to research our present whistle-blower protections, and I found that while current District law contains an unambiguous prohibition against retaliation for testimony before the D.C. Council, it provides only toothless protections for those who would help ferret out waste, fraud, and abuse in our government.
I therefore introduced the D.C. Whistleblower Reinforcement Act, and, in fact, it was Officers Hill and Sanders’ testimony (at my request) on the bill at a hearing held in September 1997 that ultimately resulted in the Council’s decision to investigate MPD operations.
Once enacted, the Whistleblower Reinforcement Act, which passed on first reading May 5 and has been called “the toughest whistle-blower law in the nation,” will strengthen the protections for whistle-blowers and impose a duty on government supervisors to report illegality in the workplace. The bill would apply to all governmental entities, as well as to the Water and Sewer Authority, the Public Benefits Corporation, and, eventually, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
The bill provides that government supervisors who are found to have retaliated against whistle-blowers may face a fine of up to $1,000. A supervisor who fails to report a violation of law, regulation, or contract term may face disciplinary action, including dismissal. The bill would require the District to inform all employees of these new protections and obligations, beginning with applicants for District government jobs and including workplace signage and notices accompanying tax reporting documents.
Our work is not yet completed, and we anticipate that our final report and recommendations will aid in resolving many of the difficulties that have plagued MPD, including retaliation against those who serve the public by reporting workplace illegality and impropriety.
In the meantime, if people
believe they have been the object of retaliation, they should contact me at (202) 724-8105.