Judge Dismisses Officers' Suit Over Discipline for Vegas Trip

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By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 5, 2007

In a case seemingly riddled with wrongs, a federal judge had to decide yesterday who was more right: the Dumfries police officers who called in sick to head to Las Vegas, or their supervisors who confronted them at the airport upon their return.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria had charged that the town's police chief and captain violated the officers' constitutional rights by meeting the plane with a show of force in an effort to "humiliate and embarrass" them.

Three of the four AWOL officers, who say they disembarked at Dulles International Airport and were immediately questioned and searched in front of other passengers, had sought $1 million each.

Judge T.S. Ellis III dismissed the case, finding no constitutional rights had been violated.

"I don't doubt it was embarrassing to them," he said. "But life is about making choices and living with the consequences of the choices you make."

In this case, the officers had chosen to lie to their bosses, and the consequence was being "called on the carpet" by the town's top brass, Ellis said.

Afterward, Jennifer L. Parrish, attorney for Dumfries Police Chief Calvin Johnson and Capt. Ronald Mackey, said her clients had been vindicated.

"It's unfortunate that the lawsuit was even brought, because it shed a false light on the diligence and credibility of the police force," she said.

She maintained, and Ellis agreed, that Johnson and Mackey were working in the capacity of bosses executing a disciplinary action, not police officers making an arrest, when they showed up at the airport.

Her clients had already been lied to and they wanted to see for themselves if the officers stepped off that plane, she said.

And they did.

There to greet them, the officers said in the suit, were five to 10 officers, from both Dumfries and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, in a horseshoe formation. The returning officers were questioned and stripped of their badges in an open, visible area, they contended.

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