D.C. police officer sues department claiming retaliation by superiors after complaining officers illegally targeted Black men for arrests
Police Sgt. Charlotte Djossou, 41, in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in D.C. last week, said she made internal complaints after hearing about or witnessing conduct that was against dept. protocol
While assigned to the narcotics special investigation unit, a Black subordinate officer told her a lieutenant had instructed officers to “target groups of young men of color” in predominantly Black neighborhoods in a tactic known as jump-outs Djossou claims
In jump outs officers jump out of unmarked cars and search people without probable cause, a violation of an individual’s legal rights
Djossou, who is black, reported the alleged instruction to her superiors
Weeks later, an email went out from top police supervisors ordering officers to stop the jump-out tactic, which is against dept. policy
After blowing the whistle on those flagrant violation of civil rights and falsification of charges by fellow officers Djossou claims in her lawsuit, she faced internal backlash
Djossou alleges that superiors subsequently withheld promotions, wrote unmerited, negative performance appraisals and filed false disciplinary charges against her
A veteran DC police officer has claimed in a lawsuit that the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police department retaliated against her after she raised concerns about the unethical conduct of some supervisors.
These include allegations that patrol officers had been instructed to conduct unlawful searches of groups of Black men and classify felony crimes as misdemeanors to make it appear crime had been committed.
Sgt. Charlotte Djossou, 41, who has spent 16 years with the MPDC, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in the district’s Superior Court last week, detailing retaliatory action levelled against her after she had lodged internal complaints on getting to know about or witnessing conduct that was against department protocol.
Djossou alleges that superiors subsequently withheld promotions, wrote unmerited, negative performance appraisals and filed false disciplinary charges against her.
The Iraq veteran in her In the 24-page lawsuit, details joining the DC metropolitan police in 2004 after an honorable discharge from the Army in 2001 followed by a four-year stint with the National Guard, including a deployment to Iraq.
Five years after joining the dept., Djossou passed a promotion exam and was promoted to investigator, working sex crime investigations in the department’s youth division. Two more promotions in the following years, Djossou now a sergeant, was assigned to Fourth District Patrol.
In June 2015, assigned to the narcotics special investigation unit, a Black subordinate officer told Djossou a lieutenant had instructed officers to “target groups of young men of color” in predominantly Black neighborhoods in a tactic known as jump-outs.
In this maneuver, officers jump out of unmarked cars and search people without probable cause.
That in itself is a violation of an individual’s legal rights.
Djossou, who is Black, reported the alleged instruction on June 30 to her superiors.
On July 1, an email from top police brass ordered officers to stop the jump-out tactic, which is against department policy, the lawsuit states.
Two weeks later, Djossou claims in the lawsuit, superiors began excluding her from internal meetings and activities that were necessary for her job. By the end of July supervisors began criticizing her work.
Two months later her performance review was downgraded and she was recommended for discipline and criticized for poor attendance, Djossou said in the lawsuit.
In June of 2018, she was at a morning roll call when another officer in the investigative unit told colleagues to target large groups of minority men “in poverty stricken areas” of the city and search them without cause.
The officer informed colleagues they were not turn on their body cameras until after the searches were started, as opposed to before, which is department policy.
The three supervisors were present at the roll call and approved the officer’s directives, – Djossou says in the lawsuit that she reported the instructions to her superiors.
Djossou’s attorney cites another officer rights violation in that same year. His client alerted her supervisors that a White officer who reported to her had pointed his service weapon at a Black driver and threatened to kill the driver during a PCP possession arrest.
After reviewing the officer’s bodycam footage Djossou determined the officer’s use of force was inappropriate. In a separate incident the same officer arrested a Black driver and charged that person with assault on a police officer.
Again after she and another supervisor reviewed the bodycam footage of the encounter, the affected officer, without approval, went into the system and improperly downgraded the charge to resisting arrest.
After she alerted a senior supervisor of both incidents, that officer was disciplined, according to the lawsuit.
However later that year, Djossou applied for a detective sergeant position within the investigative service bureau and was denied the promotion. She said she had been promised the promotion four years earlier by then-Assistant Chief Peter Newsham.
In more whistle blower activity, Djossou in 2019, reported that officers began downgrading felony thefts in various neighborhoods to misdemeanors if they thought the theft could not be solved or to avoid frightening off gentrifiers from a neighborhood.
While she continues to work out of the 4th District precinct in Upper Northwest Washington, there has been some “tension” between her and some others in the department Djossou said in a recent interview.
“I have colleagues that support me and I have colleagues that don’t like what I’m doing,” she said with a slight shrug of her shoulders.
In January of this year, Djossou testified about her allegations of illegal officer jump-outs and crime designation downgrades in front of D.C. Council member Charles Allen’s hearing on public safety.
Allen is chair of the council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which includes oversight of the police department.
As the case continues, it has been scheduled for court hearing.