”This is a clear violation of the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act,” said Metropolitan Police Department officer Hilton Burton, as he initiated a lawsuit against MPD Chief Cathy Lanier in August 2012. The suit finally went to trial last week.
Burton filed a whistleblower lawsuit after he was demoted two ranks and transferred from his position in the Special Operations Division following a police escort of actor Charlie Sheen nearly four years ago.
In the lawsuit, Burton claims that the MPD did not have a ”clear policy in place to safeguard the health and safety to the public as it relates to non-dignitary escorts.”
Burton is suing for alleged violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act and seeking $1 million in compensatory damages. He also wants $1 million in punitive damages, lost wages, further attorney’s fees and costs, plus reinstatement to his previous police rank. Lastly, he’s looking to impose a civil fine in the amount of $10,000.
Lanier said that Burton’s demotion was performance-related, but he believes it was retaliation for questioning the veracity of the chief.
On April 19, 2011, Sheen traveled to Dulles International Airport to D.C. He received a police escort in order to be able to make an appearance at an event held at Constitutional Hall.
Sheen was so impressed by his escort that he tweeted with a photo attached: ”In a car with Police escort in front and rear! Driving like someone’s about to deliver a baby!”
After the details of the Sheen escort were revealed, the MPD released a statement informing the public that the incident was under investigation. More importantly, it said that it wasn’t its practice to utilize emergency equipment for non-emergency situations.
Burton said the MPD provided new policies on its escort procedure earlier this year, but at the time of the Sheen incident, Lanier told the Washington Post that the department did not give escorts to celebrities.
“There are limited circumstances where we do police escorts,” Lanier said in April 2011. She explained that those circumstances are based on security need and that protocols are needed to be followed when they do escorts.
In a curious twist, Charlie Sheen visited D.C. earlier in the week and tried to get Old Ebbit Grill to stay open past closing time on Super Bowl night. On Feb. 3, Sheen was at Charlie Palmer Steak along with his agent to have lunch with his father, actor Martin Sheen.