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Fraternal Order of Police v. Washington

January 11, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


On August 5, 2003, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections ("DOC") conducted a "shake-down" at the Central Detention Facility, known as the "D.C. Jail," whereby all cells and common areas were searched for contraband. At the beginning of the next day, DOC also searched the lockers of all correctional officers and required each officer reporting for work that morning to consent to an automobile search as a condition of parking in a lot immediately adjacent to the D.C. Jail. The Fraternal Order of Police/Department of Corrections Labor Committee ("FOP") and certain correctional officers in leadership positions with FOP challenge the seizure of the automobiles, as well as the locker and automobile searches, on Fourth Amendment grounds.

After full briefing and oral argument on the cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court finds that the searches and seizures were lawful and that the Defendants' motion will be granted. The Plaintiffs' motion will be denied and the case dismissed.


The D.C. Jail is located at 1901 D Street, S.E., Washington, D.C., on a publicly-owned, 67-acre tract of land, historically known as Reservation 13.*fn1 Reservation 13 contains several large buildings that also provide services for the D.C. Jail: the Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF"); the D.C. General Hospital; D.C. Department of Health clinics; and the D.C. Medical Examiner. Reservation 13 also contains extensive, interconnected, parking lots. There are no fences or other physical barriers separating DOC property from the other areas of Reservation 13. There are two main points of entry by foot into the D.C. Jail - a staff entrance and a visitors' entrance.

All persons entering the jail are subject to a pat search of their person, a search of any bags or containers they have with them, and must proceed through a metal detector. Nonetheless, as with most jails, the D.C. Jail has received reports that some of its correctional officers transport weapons, drugs, and other contraband in their vehicles and onto the grounds of the jail in an attempt to smuggle them inside.*fn2

On Wednesday, August 6, 2003, the D.C. Jail was placed into lockdown status and correctional officers began a "shake down" of all inmate cells and all common areas in search of items considered contraband under DOC regulations. The lockdown continued until Friday, August 8, 2003.

At approximately 5:00 a.m. on August 7, 2003, senior officers of DOC searched the lockers of all correctional officers. This search was ordered by Odie Washington, Director of DOC, pursuant to DOC's "Basic Regulations for Employees," Section 1.10, which states: "It is required and constitutes a condition of employment that all personnel submit to a search of their person, or automobile, or place of assignment on government property, when such search is required by the Director or Superintendent." See Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs' Motion"), Exh. A, Decl. of Odie Washington, ¶ 2.

Male officers searched correctional officers' lockers located in the male locker room. Locker numbers 1 to 126 were searched. Two female officers searched the correctional officers' lockers located in the female locker room. All containers, coats, backpacks, and other items in the lockers were searched as well. Only nuisance contraband was located. The locker inspection was concluded at 6:15 a.m.

Later that morning, as correctional officers started to arrive for the 7:30 a.m. shift, DOC established a vehicle checkpoint at the Massachusetts Avenue entrance into Reservation 13. The checkpoint was manned by DOC officials, including Deputy Director Anthony. Two members of the Internal Affairs Division ("IAD") of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") observed but did not take an active role. Two MPD police officers with a canine unit were present for some part of this activity but also did not participate.*fn3 Other entrances into Reservation 13 were blocked so that the Massachusetts Avenue entrance was the only way into the area at that time.

All correctional officers were ordered by DOC officials to stop at the checkpoint. They were informed that there was a vehicle search being conducted and were offered a "Vehicle Search Consent Form." The Consent Form stated:

I give formal consent to D.C. Department of Corrections and or members of the Metropolitan Police Department to search the vehicle for which I am operating on this date, Thursday, August 07, 2003 at ___ hrs.

I am aware of the fact that I can deny any search of this vehicle before or during the search process.

I have not be[en] threatened, ordered or intimidated into submitting to a search of this vehicle.

The vehicle in question is described as a. Tag Number _______. State ___.

Defs' Motion, Exh. B. After an officer signed this Consent Form, he or she exited the vehicle and its interior area was searched, including the glove ...

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