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Anyaso v. United States Capitol Police

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 17, 2014

LAWRENCE O. ANYASO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE, Defendant

For LAWRENCE O. ANYASO, Plaintiff: Boniface K. Cobbina, BONIFACE K. COBBINA, ESQUIRE, Washington, DC.

For U.S. CAPITOL POLICE, Defendant: Frederick Michael Herrera, LEAD ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE, Washington, DC.

Page 35

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.

Lawrence Anyaso is an African-American officer in the United States Capitol Police (" USCP" ). On August 10, 2012, he filed suit against the USCP alleging discrimination on the basis of race in violation of the Congressional Accountability Act (" CAA" ), 2 U.S.C. § 1408, et seq. , and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Compl., Aug. 10, 2014 [ECF No. 1], at ¶ ¶ 1, 36.) He later amended his complaint to allege that he also had been unlawfully retaliated against for engaging in statutorily protected activities. (Amend. Compl., Dec. 27, 2012 [ECF No. 7], at ¶ ¶ 42-43.) Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dec. 16, 2014 [ECF No. 17] (" Mot." )). For the reasons stated below, this motion will be granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This case stems from a traffic accident involving plaintiff, the subsequent investigation into that accident, and the disciplinary actions taken by the defendant as a result.[1] On May 28, 2011, Officer Anyaso,

Page 36

then an eight-year veteran of the USCP, was in his patrol vehicle when a call came over the police radio indicating that a domestic assault was in progress at a nearby location. Anyaso informed his dispatchers that he was going to respond to the call and he proceeded directly to the area where the assault was allegedly taking place. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Fact (" SOF" ) [ECF No. 17-1], at ¶ 3; Amend. Compl. at ¶ 10.) When Officer Anyaso arrived, he was advised by a witness that the alleged perpetrator was no longer present at the location. ( See SOF at ¶ 4; Amend. Compl. at ¶ 11.) Officer Anyaso then proceeded to search the area for the alleged perpetrator. During this search, Anyaso engaged in what the USCP refers to as " Code One" protocols. " Code One" is the USCP designation for operating a vehicle with emergency equipment activated. (Decl. of Kimberlie Bolinger (" Bolinger Decl." ), Def.'s Ex. 4 [ECF No. 17-5], at ¶ ¶ 4-8.) The USCP directives do not permit " Code One" protocols to be used when pursuing non-violent felonies, misdemeanors, crimes against property, or traffic violations. ( Id. at ¶ 7; see also Bolinger Decl. Attach. 2, " USCP Operational Directive TRF," at 1.4.3 (" Employees will not engage in vehicular pursuit to apprehend perpetrators of the following offenses: (a) non-violent felonies, (b) misdemeanors, (c) crimes against property, [and] (d) traffic violations." ).) In addition, USCP officers are only permitted to use Code One protocols when they are " pursuing" a suspect. ( See Bolinger Decl. Attach. 2, at 1.4.1 (" When operating an authorized USCP pursuit vehicle with emergency devices activated, sworn employees may engage in pursuit of a vehicle . . . ." (emphasis added).) The same departmental directives require that when an officer is operating pursuant to Code One protocols, he or she still must exercise due regard for the safety of all persons and potential traffic hazards. ( See Bolinger Decl. Attach. 2, at 1.4.2.)

While proceeding in a Code One mode in search of the suspect, Officer Anyaso drove through a red light at the intersection of Fourth Street and E Street in Southeast D.C. As he did, he collided with another, non-police vehicle. (SOF at ¶ 6.) As a result of the accident, plaintiff and one passenger from another vehicle were taken to the hospital. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) Officer Anyaso's vehicle sustained more than $15,000 worth of damage. In addition, USCP was deemed liable in tort for more than $19,000 in damages to the owner of the other vehicle. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-17.)

In response to the crash, the USCP conducted an extensive investigation. During the course of this investigation, Officer Anyaso was not permitted to drive a USCP vehicle and was assigned a fixed-post patrol. In addition, the USCP required that he complete a driver recertification course in August 2011. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 23-24, 29.)

The initial investigation of the crash was conducted by Officer Ryan Ford, a trained investigator. (Decl. of Ryan D. Ford, Def.'s Ex. 7 [ECF No. 17-8], at ¶ ¶ 3-4.)) His investigation included an interview with Officer Anyaso. ( Id. at ¶ 5.) During this interview, Officer Anyaso was able to respond to only eight of Officer Ford's twenty-five questions. ( Id. ) Based on his investigation, Officer Ford concluded that the accident was preventable. ( Id. at ¶ 7.)

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The case was then referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility (" OPR" ) to confirm whether plaintiff violated departmental rules and make a recommendation to the Bureau Commander regarding any disciplinary action. (Bolinger Decl. at ¶ ¶ 3, 11, 13-14.) Robin Matthew, a Disciplinary Review Officer in the OPR, was assigned to the case. Based on the investigation, she recommended that Officer Anyaso be issued a CP-534 (a form documenting command discipline that carries a penalty of no more than twenty-four hours leave or pay) and the loss of sixteen hours of leave or pay. (Dep. of Robin J. Matthew (" Matthew Dep." ), Def.'s Ex. 8 [ECF No. 17-9], at 33.)

Thereafter, OPR Commander Kimberlie Bollinger reviewed Ms. Matthew's recommendation. She determined that the investigation had not been sufficiently thorough and the limited evidence suggested that plaintiff had been canvassing and not pursuing a suspect at the time of the accident. (Bolinger Decl. at ¶ ¶ 14-15.) She also expressed concern that the victims in the other vehicle had not been interviewed as part of Officer Ford's investigation. Commander Bollinger therefore assigned Sergeant Mark Shutters to conduct a more thorough OPR investigation of the accident. ( Id. at ¶ 16.)

Sergeant Shutters' investigation revealed several additional facts which, he believed, demonstrated a preponderance of credible evidence that Officer Anyaso had failed to operate the USCP vehicle in an appropriate manner. ( Id. at ¶ 17.) These facts included that:

o Officer Anyaso proceeded Code One while canvassing, not pursuing, a suspect in violation of departmental policy;
o Officer Anyaso failed to wear a seat belt and exceeded the prima facie speed limit when he passed through a red light signal;
o Officer Anyaso failed to ensure the intersection was free of potential traffic hazards and failed to slow or stop at the intersection; and
o Officer Anyaso failed to recall the majority of details of the accident when interviewed about the incident.

( Id. at ¶ ¶ 18-22.) Based on these facts, Sergeant Shutters sustained the charges against Officer Anyaso. The Disciplinary Review Office recommended, based on Sergeant Shutters' report, that Officer Anyaso be given a CP-534 and ...


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