Congress

Capitol Police sexual discrimination trial unveils male officers sleeping on the job and a lack of protocol with new employees

Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis has alleged she was fired for infractions male officers got away with

A sexual discrimination trial has unveiled shortcomings in the department’s protocol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The second day in the case of a female Capitol Police officer who alleges she was fired on the basis of her gender provided details indicating the department failed to follow its own policies regarding the supervision and termination of new employees and allowed male officers who were caught sleeping on duty to remain on the force.

Tuesday’s revelations included several examples of new male officers who were disciplined for violations before their probationary periods ended but not fired. One unnamed male Capitol Police officer was found asleep on duty, leaning back in his chair with a roll of toilet paper wedged between his neck and the back of the chair. Another male officer, cited for sleeping on the job and for a failure to screen at a checkpoint, remains employed by the Capitol Police.

A separate male officer took 32 hours of unscheduled time off on three occasions and was cited for walking away from his assigned post. Another male officer, who was reported as acting insubordinately when he continued to use his cell phone despite being asked to put it away by a superior, continues to be employed by the force.

Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis, a female officer who was fired in 2015, alleges she was discriminated based on her sex and retaliated against for participating in an investigation regarding alleged sexual harassment by a supervisor, Sgt. Tyrone Vias, now a lieutenant at the department.

Sourgoutsis received two command disciplinary infractions within her probationary period, which ended on Nov. 15, 2015: one for a uniform infraction and one for sitting on a retaining wall and being distracted from guarding a door at the Capitol Visitor Center.

On May 10, 2015, Sourgoutsis, who was working a double shift, was found without her proper Capitol Police shirt and instead had on a white T-shirt with a bulletproof vest. The next day, while employees from the Architect of the Capitol were working on a door with masks to prevent them from inhaling the fumes, Sourgoutsis was photographed by another officer sitting with a worker and was cited for having her attention diverted from the point of entry.

UNITED STATES - JULY 16: Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee testifies during a House Administration Committee hearing on ‘Oversight of the United States Capitol Police’ on Capitol Hill on Tuesday July 16, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, says Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis’ firing “wasn’t right.” (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Gus Papathanasiou, a Capitol Police officer and Labor Committee chairman, said Tuesday that Matthew R. Verderosa, then the assistant chief of police, told Sourgoutsis in a July 28, 2015, disciplinary meeting to put the disciplinary matters behind her.

Papathanasiou, who has spent 17 years on the force, said the disciplinary matters didn’t rise to the level of punishment that Sourgoutsis received. He added that he has sat at posts and that he and other officers have committed uniform violations.

“It wasn’t right what they did to this young woman,” Papathanasiou said.

Prior to Sourgoutsis’ hiring at the force, Papathanasiou, at the suggestion of a friend, had coffee with her to provide her with advice about the Capitol Police.

On Oct. 26, 2015, weeks before Sourgoutsis’ probationary period was set to end, Deputy Chief Chad B. Thomas endorsed a recommendation to fire Sourgoutsis from Inspector Eric C. Waldow, an official steps above her immediate supervisor. The letter mentions the two infractions, called CP 534s, along with violations at the officer training academy from where she had graduated a year earlier.

The training school violations included using profanity, chewing gum in class and using Skype in the cafeteria.

Thomas said in a letter to Verderosa that Sourgoutsis “has a clearly established pattern of conduct problems that have grown more and more serious over time despite repeated attempts at corrective counseling, and have now finally manifested into multiple instances of Command Discipline within her probationary term of employment.” Thomas noted that his findings are consistent with the guidelines established by USCP (United States Capitol Police) Directive 2052.004.

That directive says recommendations regarding potential termination during the probationary period “should begin with the employee’s first-line supervisor.” While Waldow recommended Sourgoutsis be fired, her first-line supervisors at the time were Vias and Sgt. Maria Willis.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 3: A Capitol Police car block Constitution Ave. at 3rd St. NE on Capitol Hill following the shooting outside of the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Quarterly reports for probationary Capitol Police officers were routinely not completed, testimony from the second day of trial revealed. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Another departure from Capitol Police procedures, which was described as a “systemic failure” by Veredrosa during his Tuesday testimony, was that quarterly reports for probationary employees monitoring their progress as new officers were routinely not completed.

In the case of Sourgoutsis, none of her quarterly progress reports were filled out. However, Form CP-1388, which is supposed to be the fourth and final probationary period rating summary, yielded an “unsatisfactory” evaluation.

“Prior quarterly ratings must be considered when making the final determination regarding the retention of the probationary employee,” the Capitol Police rules state. 

Thomas A. DiBiase, the acting general counsel for the Capitol Police, testified Wednesday that the quarterly reports should be completed by first-line supervisors.

“First-line supervisors are supposed to do it,” DiBiase said.

The trial will continue Thursday.

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