If you’re keeping score at home, Haymarket Police Chief James E. Roop is back OFF the job, along with his deputy chief, Gregory A. Breeden, and Officer Jacob T. Davis, after all three were suspended last Monday night, then un-suspended on Thursday afternoon by Mayor David Leake. On Friday night, the town council overrode the mayor’s veto and re-suspended Roop, Breeden and Davis. So once again, the town of about 1,900 residents is left with three officers to stem the tide of crime in western Prince William County, at least for the next 60 days.
We still don’t know what exactly these three lawmen did to earn their suspensions, though Roop and Davis were ordered to undergo counseling for sexual harassment. In 2005, Roop and Breeden were investigated by an independent lawyer who recommended they be fired for sexual harassment. The town council gave them 15 days without pay.
This time, the council launched its own investigation in mid-December, and decided to suspend Roop, Davis and Breeden for 60 days in a special meeting on Monday night. Leake, as mayor, did not get a vote in that, and he felt that the whole matter should have been investigated independently, and that the penalties for Breeden and Davis were too harsh. On Thursday, as the Haymarket town charter allows, he vetoed all three suspensions.
The town charter also allows the council to override a mayoral veto with a two-third vote, or four of the six. So after the three officers were reinstated Thursday afternoon, the council met Friday night in another special meeting. In the video of the meeting, Leake asked why the officers didn’t get their due process, as stated in the police general orders. Vice Mayor Jay Tobias said town attorney Martin Crim advised that the charter trumps the police department’s orders, and until the council updates the charter, “in which we’d probably look to strike your ability to veto things out of personal vendettas,” Tobias said, the charter rules.
The votes to re-suspend the three officers were held without discussion among the council members, but a heckler sitting out of camera range chimed in with her own analysis, such as, “You’re elected by us to represent the town, not your own personal agendas,” and “I can’t wait until we all get sued and all our houses are taken because you guys are idiots.”
Roop was suspended unanimously, Breeden by a 5-1 vote and Davis by a 4-2 vote. Yet another special meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night, where more of the tangled rivalries and animosities that animate Haymarket will likely be aired. Whether anyone will say why the publicly elected board chose to suspend half of its taxpayer-funded police department for two months is anyone’s guess.
UPDATE, Monday 11 a.m.: Leake issued this comment on the council’s actions: “I am disturbed and disappointed by the council’s decision not to reconsider and move forward with an independent and qualified investigation. No one on council has the qualifications, training or experience to conduct an investigation and known relationships make it even more complicated. We owe it to our residents, whom we were elected to serve, to make sure we do all we can and to make sure that warranted consequences are duly imparted when and where they are deserved. I also disagree with council and believe our residents have a right to know what is going on, minus specific details.”