When police officers report police misconduct, is that free speech protected by the Constitution? Or can they be punished because they went outside of the chain of command? Does it make any difference if the commanders ordered a coverup of wrongdoing?
A former police officer filed a lawsuit that claimed he was fired because he tried to do something about misconduct that he witnessed.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“It is relevant to the resolution of Dahlia’s case that Dahlia disclosed misconduct to LASD in contravention of the numerous threats and admonitions from his superiors not to reveal the misconduct to anyone,” wrote Judge Richard A. Paez, a President Clinton appointee. “He defied, rather than followed, his supervisors’ orders.”
Dahlia alleged that he witnessed other officers physically abuse suspects who were taken into custody during a high-profile robbery probe that began in late 2007. He said he saw a lieutenant grab a suspect by the throat, put a gun under his eye and threaten him.
Dahlia also reported that he heard yelling and the sound of somebody being hit and slapped in a room where a sergeant was interviewing a suspect.
When Dahlia reported what he had allegedly witnessed to a superior, the lieutenant told him to stop his “sniveling,” he said. Dahlia said he also was ordered not to tell internal affairs officers about what he had seen.
“The physical beatings continued in BPD interview rooms and in the field, evidenced by the booking photos of various suspects,” the court said.