Discrimination complaint is delaying officers' hearing They could be fired for abuse convictions


A Maryland section article Monday incorrectly spelled the name of a Baltimore police officer whose disciplinary hearing was postponed. Also, the article said Sgt. Louis H. Hopson was convicted in the early 1980s of hitting his wife. In fact, he was convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Hearings to determine whether three Baltimore police sergeants convicted of domestic violence should be fired have been postponed because of a complaint by one of the men that he was unfairly targeted.

Sgt. Louis H. Dopson, who was convicted of hitting his wife in the early 1980s and fined $50, filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying he was being disciplined because he spoke out against racism in the department at a City Hall hearing last year.

Wilma Scott, an enforcement supervisor with the EEOC's Baltimore office, asked for a month's delay in a letter to Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

Police officials denied taking punitive action against Dopson but promised to cooperate with the EEOC inquiry. Department spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said Dopson's allegations were untrue.

Dopson and Sgts. Andrew J. Bratcher and Lloyd W. Green have been on desk jobs for more than a year, stripped of their police powers because of a 1996 federal law that prohibits anyone convicted of domestic abuse from possessing a gun, regardless of when the offense occurred.

The department said it conducted a criminal background check on each of its 3,200 officers and found three affected by the law. Green was convicted in 1971, two years before he joined the force, and Bratcher was convicted in October.

The three sergeants had been scheduled to attend an administrative hearing Friday with Col. Victor D. Gregory, chief of the department's Human Resources Bureau, who was to recommend to Frazier whether or not they should be fired.

The department argues that because the officers are not permitted to have weapons, they may not perform the jobs for which they were hired and may be fired.

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said the officers should continue working desk jobs until the many legal challenges to the law are resolved. He said the union will sue in federal court if the officers are fired.

"I'm pleased the hearings were postponed," McLhinney said. "I'll be more pleased when it's resolved in the officers' favor. Nowhere in the law does it say these officers have to be terminated."

The national FOP is challenging the federal law, and in another case, five Los Angeles officers who were fired because of the law have sued their police department. Several congressmen have introduced legislation to remove the retroactive aspect of the law.

"Nobody wants to be perceived as not being strong on domestic violence," McLhinney said. "But this is not about domestic violence at all. It's about fairness."

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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