Frederick, MD - Frederick Police Officer Daniel Sullivan has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, police chief, and agency that he works for, after retaliation for showing his support by holding a "Blue Lives Matter" rally (Editor's Note: The rally was not formally affiliated with our organization.)
According to The Frederick News-Post, the $20 million lawsuit was filed on Friday, July 7, in U.S. District Court, against the city of Frederick, the Frederick Police Department, Chief of Police Ed Hargis, Lieutenant Thomas Tokarz, and “John and Jane Doe” of the department as defendants.
It is seeking $10 million for the retaliation and also seeking an additional amount of up to $10 million for pain and suffering.
On July 24, 2016, Officer Sullivan held a 'Blue Lives Matter' rally at Memorial Park, in memory of the five Dallas police officers who were assassinated on July 7, 2016, and the two Baton Rouge police officers who were murdered on July 14, 2016. According to the lawsuit, Officer Sullivan's supervisors urged him to cancel the rally, and punished him when he didn't.
Officer Sullivan, who is a 13-year veteran of the agency and a former Green Beret, said that the retaliation began when he was assigned to work the make-up Fourth of July fireworks show just hours after the rally. During that assignment, he worked at the busy intersection of West Patrick Street and Baker Street, without a cruiser.
He said that Lieutenant Tokarz told him the next day, “If you ever feel the need to exercise your First Amendment rights again, I hope you come to me your Lieutenant and ask my advice prior to doing so.”
Officer Sullivan's attorney, Daniel Cox, said, "...I think when you see the impact of government trying to, in any way, prevent free public speech and assembly, that should be concerning to all of us.”
Officer Sullivan said that during the conversation with Lieutenant Tokarz, that his supervisor told him that he was under internal investigation "for posting medical information on Facebook about Frederick Rising, a member of a local social justice group". Rising had 'identified' Officer Sullivan on social media as the rally organizer, and had also accused him of murder.
Rising took to social media to attack the officer for a shooting he was involved in on October 6, 2008. Officer Sullivan shot Bradley James Bailey after Bailey pointed a semi-automatic handgun at officers.
Bailey died, and the case was presented to a grand jury, who found the shooting to be justified. Officer Sullivan responded online to Rising's social media post, explained the circumstances behind the shooting, and also said that Rising was "mentally ill," not a Black Lives Matter supporter.
The Frederick Police Department's internal investigation of Officer Sullivan was about whether it was appropriate to share the information about Rising.
According to Officer Sullivan, Rising had publicly shared that he is bi-polar. The internal investigation ended when the allegations against Officer Sullivan were determined to be unfounded.
On January 17, 2017, Chief Hargis told Officer Sullivan that he ordered his supervisor to give him a negative evaluation, according to the lawsuit. He said that he didn't believe Officer Sullivan should have been cleared from the internal investigation.
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Francis Scott Key Lodge #91, Joe Palkovic, said that he had no comment "because he didn't know all of the facts." He also said that the FOP traditionally supports officers in cases where they have been wrongly disciplined, and in First Amendment violations where the officer was not on duty and not in uniform.
Cox said that Officer Sullivan was not on duty or in uniform at the rally, and was not representing the FPD.
The lawsuit alleges federal and state retaliation involving First Amendment violations, Equal Protection violations, civil conspiracy to deprive Officer Sullivan of his constitutional rights, the creation of a hostile work environment, violation of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, libel and slander, and Public Information Act violations.