Riverdale Park accused of retaliation against whistleblower - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Riverdale Park accused of retaliation against police whistleblower

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RIVERDALE PARK, Md. -

Riverdale Park Police are accused of retaliating against an officer who blew the whistle on the department.

The officer's allegations went public in a story first reported by FOX 5 after a lawsuit was filed this week. Corporal Clay Alford claims his name and signature were forged on thousands of speed camera tickets he never reviewed. But the day after the suit was filed and the story was reported by FOX 5, Alford says he was suspended from the job.

A speed camera ticket provided with the lawsuit shows Corporal Alford's name on a ticket even though he was on leave at the time. The officer claims it's not his signature and he never reviewed it.

According to the lawsuit, Alford claims civilian employees logged into his account and approved tickets illegally. When he blew the whistle on the speed camera scandal, Alford's attorney says not only was he slapped with a suspension, but he was ordered to keep quiet or he would be fired.

"In terms of firing somebody for retaliatory purposes, it's absolutely illegal," said Tim Leahy, Alford's attorney.

In a string of emails filed in the case between Alford and two civilian employees, it describes splitting the tickets, with each taking a thousand to review. By law, only a sworn law enforcement officer, not a civilian, can do that.

"He was not comfortable with people signing in under his name and citations being issued under his name that he had not reviewed," Leahy said.

In an email, Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer told FOX 5, "Sorry but I cannot comment on the lawsuit ... [And] I cannot comment on personnel matters."

Police Captain Patrick Timmons said they are not talking either.

"I can't comment on that," he said.

In 2011, the town earned $1.8 million from speed camera citations, about a third of the town's budget.

David Embody is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"I'd like to get my ticket dismissed once and for all, and I'd like to see all the other people get their money back," Embody said.

For now, the police department isn't admitting any wrong doing, while Corporal Alford, a four-year veteran, remains on suspension, taking away his badge, his gun and possibly his career.

"Hopefully the political leaders of Riverdale Park are going to come to the conclusion that he is in fact the hero of the story and the villains will be dealt with," Leahy said.

The lawsuit demands all the tickets be refunded. That wouldn't be unprecedented. A few years ago, the town of Brentwood did it -- after discovering the person reviewing tickets was not a sworn officer. In that case, it was only three weeks. The allegations in Riverdale Park go back three years and subsequently could cost the city millions.


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