A court case probes the relations between the police and the press on Capitol Hill
A federal appeal board heard arguments on Tuesday over whether a former Capitol Police sergeant, Officer Jodi Breiterman, should have been suspended and then demoted for sending a picture of a loaded gun to the media that another officer left in a bathroom.
In early 2015, Breiterman responded to an incident in which a congressman found a Capitol Police officer’s gun left unattended in a bathroom at the Capitol Visitor Center. She photographed the gun, which was stuffed into a toilet cover dispenser, with her work phone and then shared the image and information with Roll Call. The officer who left his weapon was suspended for six days without pay.
Breiterman alleges that she was discriminated against by the department on the basis of her gender and that she suffered retaliation for sharing the photo of the unattended gun of the Capitol Officer with the media.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled on September 4 that Capitol Police did not unlawfully sex discrimination against Breiterman. Tuesday’s hearing before three judges from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals left the two sides wondering whether Kelly’s decision not to go to trial should be overturned. Justices Laurence H. Silberman, Neomi Rao and Robert L. Wilkins heard the arguments.
Kelly Scindian, attorney for the Capitol Police, argued the department was correct in disciplining Breiterman and said the officer was not protected under the First Amendment because she obtained the information as part of her official duties and, therefore, expressed herself as an employee of the department rather than as a private citizen.