Court upholds firing of police captain for failing to report subordinate’s misconduct

A state appeals court has upheld the firing of a New Orleans Police Department captain who was dismissed for failing to report the misconduct of a subordinate in the wake of the 2005 fatal shooting of Henry Glover.

Supt. Ronal Serpas fired Capt. Jeffrey Winn for neglect of duty, saying he should have alerted his superiors after a lieutenant told him in May 2009 that Officer Greg McRae had torched Glover’s body.

Winn, who led the department’s SWAT team after Hurricane Katrina, had told officers to move a vehicle containing Glover’s body to the levee behind the Fourth District Police Station, since the Coroner’s Office and morgue were out of service in the chaotic days after the storm. The SWAT team had been using Paul Habans Elementary School in Algiers as its base of operations.

Winn has said he was unaware at the time that Glover had been fatally shot by Officer David Warren and also did not know then that the vehicle and Glover’s body were later set ablaze. McRae, one of several officers tried in the aftermath of Glover’s death, was convicted of burning the body and is awaiting resentencing April 24.

Warren, who acknowledged shooting Glover but claimed it was justified, also was prosecuted in federal court but was acquitted after a retrial late last year.

Winn, who has not faced criminal charges, feared he would be ensnared in the alleged cover-up of Glover’s death and consulted defense attorney Eric Hessler, who advised him to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not report a key conversation he had with Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, according to court records. Scheuermann had informed Winn that McRae burned the vehicle and Glover’s body, and indicated he thought Winn already knew of McRae’s actions.

Winn lost his job in May 2011. After the city’s Civil Service Commission upheld his termination, he took his case to the courts, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last week Winn’s actions were not excusable by the Fifth Amendment because he had not been the subject of a criminal investigation when he learned of McRae’s misconduct.

“At the point in May 2009 when Scheuermann told Winn that he thought Winn knew McRae had burned the vehicle containing Glover’s body, Winn had not been compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself or to report misconduct of his own,” the court held in a 2-1 decision. “Rather, Winn was obligated to report in a timely manner any misconduct of other NOPD officers, including those under his command.”

Hessler did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Winn, a 26-year veteran of the NOPD, has filed a federal lawsuit against Serpas and the city, claiming he was the victim of retaliation after testifying for the defense in the Glover proceedings.