Whistleblower in Capitol Gun Case Sues
Officer alleges harsh punishment for role in exposing a gun left in a bathroom
A Capitol Police officer is suing the department claiming “unlawful retaliation” after she admitted to sharing a photo with Roll Call of a police handgun left in the Capitol Visitor Center’s bathroom.
Jodi Breiterman, a 14-year veteran, was formally demoted from sergeant to private first class in early May, shortly after she returned to duty from a 10-month suspension, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court last week.
[Read: Lawsuit filed by Capitol Police officer]
Breiterman, 44, alleges gender discrimination over her suspension and demotion, arguing that other Capitol Police officers received less punishment for committing worse offenses, including the officers who left handguns in bathrooms.
[Related: Capitol Police Left Guns in Bathrooms]
She is also claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights, saying she is being punished for sending the photo to the press “because she believed the matter involved serious issues of public safety and was of significant public concern.”
The incident prompted jokes about the Capitol Police on late night television. Breiterman and her attorney declined a request for an interview. Capitol Police also declined to comment.
Breiterman is seeking reinstatement to her former position, lost compensation in excess of $10,000, and additional damages for pain and suffering including legal fees.
[Related: On Unattended Guns, Questions Linger for Capitol Police]
During her suspension, Breiterman was required to use personal leave when she had to leave her home between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. despite having no official duties, according to the lawsuit.
Breiterman said that when she contacted internal affairs to request permission to leave her home during those hours, no one answered the phone.
The lawsuit details multiple incidents in which she “refused to silently accept unfair and discriminatory practices by her superiors and was disciplined for speaking out.”
[Related: Capitol Police Investigating Gun Report Leak]
The court filing also details the circumstances of Breiterman sending a Roll Call reporter a photo of a gun left in the bathroom by Capitol Police officers. The gun was found by a child in January 2015.
On May 1, 2015, Roll Call reported on three instances of police officers leaving hand guns in bathrooms around the Capitol.
One involved an officer assigned to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s security detail leaving a Glock and a magazine in a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom, which was found by a CVC worker.
A member of the security detail for former House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio reportedly left a firearm in the bathroom of the Speaker’s suite on March 24, 2015.
[Related: Capitol Police Chief Leadership Questioned]
What Went Wrong for Kim Dine
A third Glock was found the night of April 16, 2015, by a janitor cleaning the Capitol Police headquarters building on D Street NE. The weapon was left in plain sight, sparking additional concern about the department charged with protecting members of Congress and one of the world’s most frequently visited landmarks.
About a month after the story ran, Roll Call reported that a female sergeant had been suspended as retribution for sending the publication a photo of one of the incidents. The sergeant, Breiterman, was one of two senior officials investigated as the source of the photo.
Then-Chief Kim Dine told committee lawmakers a year ago that a six-day suspension for the agent protecting McConnell was “still in the process, but close to being fully adjudicated.” Capitol Police have released no information on disciplinary action in the other two instances.
Contact Rahman at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter
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