A D.C. police officer was held in contempt of court yesterday after she refused to submit to a drug test ordered by a Superior Court judge who suspected she might have been under the influence of drugs while testifying in a misdemeanor trial.
Judge Rufus King said he will fine Officer Amelia Scott $25 for every hour that she refuses to take a urinalysis at the city's bail agency, and the judge ordered her testimony stricken from the trial record. Police and court officials called the action unprecedented.
Gary Hankins, chairman of the negotiating arm of the Fraternal Order of Police, denounced King's action last night, saying it would "open the door to harassment of police officers" in court.
If allowed to stand, the judge's decree could force Scott to incriminate herself in violation of her constitutional rights, Hankins said. He said the FOP will appeal the contempt order today. Scott is being represented by two FOP attorneys who advised her not to submit to drug testing.
"I think that if this were allowed to go unchallenged it would open the door for harassment of police officers every time they appear drowsy or worked midnights," Hankins said. "I don't think that's in the interest of the community or the officers to have that kind of door opened."
The FOP won a court injunction in 1983 preventing the police department from conducting random drug checks on officers. Only officers on probation or undergoing medical examinations must submit to drug testing under current department policy, Hankins said.
Hankins said he knew of no other incident in which a judge ordered a drug test for a police officer appearing in court. A legal source close to the case said it remained unclear yesterday what provisions of the law King would rely on to impose the unusual civil contempt sanctions.
Trial court judges have broad authority, but it appeared that King had ventured into an untested area of the law. King is expected to file a written order in the case this week.
"I've never had that happen before. Never heard of such a thing," said Assistant Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr., adding that the department may be forced to take some action against Scott if the officer refuses to comply with King's order.
"If an officer refuses to carry out the orders of a judge . . . the department would have to do something about it. At least we would have to investigate it. We would have to put her on some administrative status but I don't know what that would be."
Scott testified yesterday for the government in the case of a man charged with unlawful entry and destruction of property at a Southwest Washington convenience store last November.
Scott's demeanor prompted a series of extraordinary meetings near the courtroom between lawyers representing the FOP, the U.S. attorney's office, the police department and the defendant.
There were also long conferences between King, Scott and the lawyers at the judge's bench where Scott's conduct, the imposition of the contempt citation and Scott's refusal to submit to the drug test were discussed. The bench conferences were held after the jury had been sent home and out of earshot of courtroom spectators.
Sources said that the attorney for defendant Michael Savoy, 25, asked for a mistrial after King raised his concerns. But King rejected that motion and the jury is scheduled to hear closing arguments in the case today.
Hankins confirmed the accounts of other sources who said that the judge became suspicious when Scott walked into the courtroom.
One source involved in the case said that Scott appeared unable to walk straight when she approached the witness stand. There, the source said, she was asked to raise her hand to be sworn in, but did not respond to the court clerk and had to be asked again.
"Her testimony was a little incoherent. She just seemed to be out of it," this source said. King told the lawyers later that he had also noticed Scott "sniffing," according to one source.
Scott, according to this source, told King that she was tired from having worked the midnight shift at 7th District the night before. Hankins said Scott "was working midnights. She had been up all night. She was drowsy and waiting all night for that case to come to trial.
"Something in her demeanor made the judge feel that she should be tested."
King told Scott that he had a written order for the officer to appear at the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency for a urinalysis, sources said. Scott, flanked by her attorneys, refused to go.
James Maloney, Scott's attorney, said that she would not comment.
Lt. Ray Tarasovic of the 7th District said last night that Scott remains on full duty status but that she took last night's midnight shift off as personal leave.