Not in the Line of Duty

Not in the Line of Duty

Donald Morgan was a 25-year-old unemployed laborer. He had been out of work for nearly 2 years, living on public assistance. To his credit, he did earn his GED during this hiatus. He had applied for numerous jobs, but his lack of formal education and limited skills hindered his job-seeking efforts. His luck changed when he was hired by the Cyprus Grove police department in the late 70s. He was urged to apply by his next-door neighbor, a retired police officer. The retiree had heard of the department’s new police cadet program funded with federal C.E.T.A. funds. The retiree thought Morgan would easily meet the program’s requirements.

Morgan served as a cadet for 2 years, and then the city absorbed his cost and made him a member of the regular force. Over the next 20 years, he served the department not with great distinction but not with any serious disciplinary problems, either. With the exception of a 2-year stint with a countywide drug enforcement task force, he served in the road patrol unit of the department. Even though department brass did not feel that Morgan was good supervisory material, that did not prevent him from being promoted. He always tested well in the city’s antiquated Civil Service system, and the city was left with little choice but to promote him. And promote him it did. First to corporal, then to sergeant, and finally to lieutenant in charge of the midnight shift. He held this position for the last of his 2 years with Cyprus Grove’s police department, prior to his abrupt departure.

One warm August evening, two detectives were working undercover conducting surveillance in an area of Cyprus Grove known for drug trafficking. Their efforts were rewarded when they observed four young people, two males and two females, exchange money and drugs under a dimming corner streetlight. After the detectives called for backup, the four were arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses. Back at Cyprus Grove’s police headquarters, the foursome were separated by gender and interviewed. The two females thought they might have a chance to get out of the situation if they offered the detectives some damaging information about one of their own. The girls were known better by their stage names, Destiny and Chastity. They were exotic dancers at a local gentlemen’s club. They also told detectives that they made their real money as prostitutes. The two 24-year-olds had each been in this self-employed business for 2 years and one of their best customers was none other than the midnight shift supervisor, Lieutenant Don Morgan.

Not only was Morgan a regular customer, but he purchased their services while on duty. Sometimes he would go to their apartment and sometimes he would take them to his own home in a neighboring community. They said that if time were short they would engage in sex acts in his marked police car. They told the detectives that this happened on a near weekly basis and had been taking place for well over a year.

When confronted with their accusations, Morgan vehemently denied them. He accused them of making up the tale because they did not like it when he occasionally chased them off their favorite corner. He asked his supervisors why they would believe the lies of a couple of hookers over the truths of a 20-year veteran of the police department. He was not going to let his career be shortened by a couple of malcontented ladies of the evening.

However, there was an air of sincerity in the girls’ story. They told the detectives that they were not upset with Morgan because he occasionally moved them off their corner. They were mad because he owed them money for services rendered. They eagerly agreed to be wired to prove that they were telling the truth.

Apparently, the revelation did not persuade Morgan to lay low for a while. While on routine patrol 3 days later, he saw Destiny and Chastity as they were leaving the club. He then was the subject of the detectives’ surveillance. They had hidden a secret recording device in his patrol vehicle. They felt this would be more effective than directly wiring the girls. Morgan invited the girls to get into his scout car, and they did. He drove around Cyprus Grove, stopping from time to time in back alleys. The detectives observed what appeared to be suspicious behavior on the lieutenant’s part and were anxious to listen to the recording device at the end of his shift.

After Lieutenant Morgan turned his scout car in, the detectives quickly reclaimed the recorder. It contained enough incriminating evidence to charge Morgan with soliciting and accosting a prostitute. The detectives met with the police chief, who, in turn, met with City Manager Tammi Burgess. The city manager was livid. “Here,” she thought, “is a man being paid to uphold the law and he’s breaking it; and he’s breaking it while in uniform and on duty!” She told the chief to immediately terminate him and charge him with multiple misdemeanor charges for each and every time the girls could document time spent with him. The chief reminded her that there were certain procedures that had to be followed first both under Civil Service rules and the labor contract. There first had to be a chief’s hearing at which Morgan would be allowed to explain and defend his actions. “Give the guilty perverted bastard his hearing, then fire him!” the manager shouted to the chief.

The detectives confronted Lieutenant Morgan with the solid evidence. After the detectives played the tape, the cornered lieutenant confessed. Before he said anything further, he asked to speak with his union representatives, and the detectives agreed. However, he was ordered to surrender his badge and police ID. The following day, the union business agent presented an offer to City Manager Burgess. He told her that Morgan would resign effective immediately, defer his retirement, and let the record show that he was demoted to sergeant. Burgess said no. She wanted him terminated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The union officials said that if that happened, they would fully defend him and appeal the termination to binding arbitration. After haggling back and forth, the parties reached an agreement.

Lieutenant Morgan agreed to resign immediately. He would be demoted to patrol officer so that payouts for unused time would be at the patrol officer’s rate, and his retirement would be deferred until he reached age 55. He was not criminally prosecuted.

 

Questions

  • Was City Manager Vogle partially responsible for Officer Knight’s suicide?

  • Was it unethical for Vogle to terminate Knight so close to a holiday?

  • Should Vogle have sent Knight to an anger management program in an effort to retrain him?

  • Was there just cause to immediately terminate Lonnie Knight after he chased his estranged wife with the city’s patrol vehicle?

  • Was it unethical for Burgess to assume Morgan’s guilt without first holding a hearing to determine his defense of his actions?

  • Was it unethical for her to agree to dropping criminal charges against Morgan in light of his admission of guilt?

  • Was Coryell’s firing of Carson too harsh a punishment especially in light of his 30 years with the city?

  • Were criminal charges against Carson justified?

  • What exactly is a voluntary termination? Would this be considered firing oneself?

1In fairness, not all communities used C.E.T.A. funds only for police and fire positions. Maintenance workers, park attendants, and the like were also hired.

2A 4-day Kelly is when a firefighter gets 3 days off in his or her rotation, and about every 2 months a 4th day is added on; this was supposedly invented by a New York firefighter by the name of Kelly.

3 Only an astute city manager would note that in John Travolta’s movie Ladder 49, the Baltimore fire station only has two refrigerators.

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