3 Ousted Veteran Commanders Win Reinstatement, Back Pay

By Allison Klein and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Three veteran D.C. police commanders, whose dismissals a decade ago created a community uproar, were reinstated this week after winning a court fight that also awards them back pay.

Winfred L. Stanley, 58, Reginald L. Smith, 59, and John C. Daniels, 58, reported to the Police Academy for retraining and are awaiting their new assignments. Their return to duty was cleared by the D.C. Court of Appeals, which recently ruled that they were coerced into retiring by Sonya T. Proctor, the then-acting police chief.

"They're looking forward to going on with their careers interrupted by appalling lack of judgment," their lawyer, Stephen C. Leckar, said yesterday.

Leckar said all three men are ready to return to work -- even though Smith turns 60 in August and faces mandatory retirement. Chief Cathy L. Lanier signed off on the decision to bring them back instead of continuing the legal fight.

Though the exact amount has not been set, the city could be forced to pay more than $1 million in back pay and lawyers' fees. The sum the commanders get will be based on a formula that takes into account how much they've received from pensions and other employment, among other factors. The reinstated commanders will be paid about $157,500 a year, not including seniority supplements, police said. When they left the department, the three were paid about $68,000 annually, not including extra money for longevity.

Leckar has asked the city to pay his fees of about $700,000, court filings show.

The turmoil began in February 1998, when, at Proctor's behest, Assistant Chief Robert C. White told the men that they were losing their positions. White gave them hours to decide if they wanted to retire. Daniels was given the option of taking a demotion to night supervisor.

The three commanders, who had each been with the department for at least 27 years, chose to retire to protect their pension benefits.

Council members and neighborhood residents criticized the moves, made while Proctor was competing to become the city's permanent police chief. All three commanders had run patrol districts and built followings within the community. Proctor gave no public explanation for the ousters. Weeks later, she was bypassed for chief in favor of Charles H. Ramsey, who came to Washington from Chicago.

The commanders and their lawyers contended that the retirements were coerced by unreasonable time constraints and that Proctor misrepresented her authority in forcing the choices.

Their fight for reinstatement began in U.S. District Court and moved to the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals, and then to D.C. Superior Court and the Court of Appeals, which ruled Feb. 28.

Proctor did not return calls seeking comment on the case yesterday.

After retiring in 1998, Smith became chief of the Howard University police department for several years and Stanley was a contract investigator for a government agency. It was unclear whether Daniels found employment.

The commanders declined to comment yesterday through Leckar. He said they are grateful to Lanier, who decided not to fight the case any longer and instead welcome them back.

"She met with them and said the past is the past," Leckar said.

Smith began as a patrol officer in 1971 and became 5th District commander in 1997. Stanley started with D.C. police as an undercover officer in 1970 and became 3rd District commander in February 1997. Daniels started his career as a police cadet in 1969 and became the 6th District commander in 1995.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company