WASHINGTON — A D.C. police captain who was demoted after actor Charlie Sheen received a police escort to his comedy show has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department.
Hilton Burton claims he was punished for telling the D.C. Council that police escorts for celebrities were a common practice, putting him at odds with Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The chief said Sheen’s escort last year broke police protocol and that such escorts were generally reserved for government officials.
“To me, it’s all retaliatory because the chief did not like what I said before the city council,” Burton said Wednesday.
Lanier has said the demotion was not connected to the escort or to Burton’s remarks and was instead a reflection of his performance. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sheen’s escort from Dulles International Airport to a concert hall attracted attention when the actor posted about it on Twitter with a photo of flashing emergency lights and a speedometer that appeared to be registering about 80 mph. Police officials at the time said the escort ran afoul of department policies, in part because emergency lights were used in a non-emergency situation and because the escort originated outside city lines. They also said the escort wasn’t given the proper approval.
The escort was provided after one of Sheen’s representatives, concerned the actor would be running late for his performance, contacted police and requested a ride to the concert hall. Two off-duty officers met Sheen at the airport and drove him to the venue. The promoter reimbursed the city for eight hours of overtime, at a cost of $445, police said.
Burton testified two months later that escorts for celebrities were routinely provided and that there was no written rule against them. Other celebrities who have received police escorts in the last few years include Bill Gates, Jay-Z and Washington Wizards star John Wall, according to police records obtained by The Associated Press.
An inspector general’s report concluded that the officers who provided the escort didn’t break department rules. The report faulted the department for failing to establish and follow clear guidelines about the rides.
Burton was later transferred out of the special operations division, which he led, and demoted two ranks from commander to captain. He remains with the police department but is detailed to the fire department, where he’s involved in internal affairs investigation.
Besides seeking at least $6 million punitive and compensatory damages, the suit also seeks for Burton to be reinstated to commander and to his prior position.