Case of the Overly Zealous Federal Police Officer

A civilian police officer working for the Navy was removed in 2004 for charges including AWOL and inappropriate conduct. He filed various appeals but a federal appeals court upholds the MSPB’s conclusion that his removal was appropriate based on the credibility determinations made by the Board’s administrative judge.

A civilian police officer fired by the Navy from his job at the Naval District of Washington recently lost his bid to convince the appeals court to overturn his removal. (Gaddy v. Department of the Navy, C.A.F.C. No. 2007-3001 (nonprecedential), 3/19/07)

Gaddy had 5 years on the job when he was removed for failure to follow policy, inappropriate conduct, and absence without approved leave (AWOL)

The failure to follow policy stemmed from an incident where he refused to permit an authorized guest access to a housing area, even though the guest had the proper documents. He got into an altercation with the guest. Witnesses described Gaddy’s conduct toward the guest as rude an abusive. Apparently, Gaddy required the visitor to park her vehicle off base and walk with her children to the residence that she was visiting. This violated base access policy. (Opinion, p. 2)

The inappropriate conduct charge involved Gaddy chasing a car off the base and forcing it to stop using a “tactical vehicle takedown” maneuver on a busy city street, traveling at 40 MPH. The occupants of the car Gaddy stopped were following an ambulance (with lights flashing) carrying their child to the hospital. Both the ambulance and the vehicle following it had not stopped at a base checkpoint. (p. 2)

The absence without approved leave charge resulted from Gaddy requesting leave to attend a training course. He assured his supervisor that he had sufficient leave to cover the absence. The supervisor revoked the leave approval when he found out that Gaddy did not have enough leave to cover the absence. Gaddy attended anyway and was charged with AWOL. (p. 3)

Gaddy appealed the removal action to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Board was forced to dismiss the appeal without prejudice because Gaddy could not attend the scheduled hearing due to his incarceration for a felony conviction in Michigan. (p. 3)

Eventually a hearing was held before a Board administrative judge who found the agency had sustained its burden of proof and recommended that Gaddy’s removal be sustained.

Gaddy tried his hand with the Federal Circuit. The appeals court noted that while evidence was presented on both sides of the issues, the AJ had concluded that the agency’s witnesses were more credible than Gaddy and his witnesses. The court noted that credibility determinations in Board cases are “virtually unreviewable on appeal,” and affirmed the Board’s decision. (pp. 4-5)

Gaddy’s removal therefore stands.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.