February 27, 2006
In a special in-depth report we reveal the story of one former Albemarle County police officer who says he was so distraught by the corruption in the department that he sued them, and won. He settled his most recent lawsuit this past December.
It sounds like something from a movie: taped conversations, plenty of courtroom drama and one officer blowing the whistle to fight for what he thought was right.
Karl Mansoor joined the Albemarle County Police Department in 1994. He was a patrol officer from Norfolk looking to settle down with his wife and seven children. He thought it was his dream job--but that soon became short-lived.
"I started noticing double standards within the department, and I started finding out and learning about cover-ups of inappropriate or criminal activity in the department," said Mansoor.
What first caught Mansoor's attention were rumors of a high-ranking female officer fondling teen-aged girls in the student explorers program. Concerned, Mansoor says he alerted Police Chief John Miller to other related incidents of sexual harassment. He promised an investigation, but Mansoor alleges that never happened.
"It seemed like he just didn't want to hear that information," said Mansoor.
That was only the beginning. Over the next few years, Mansoor claims he observed shooting cover-ups, witnessed suspect beatings and watched as the same officers involved were promoted. When he spoke up he says a superior officer threatened him.
"He said if I continued to associate with certain people, that was other people that were also speaking up about problems in the department, that I wasn't going to get anywhere in the department," explained Mansoor.
Mansoor wasn't ready to back down. In 1997, three years after he began, Mansoor took another route. He secretly began recording hours of conversations with Chief Miller and other high-ranking officers. In one conversation Mansoor confronts his then sergeant about being written up for not changing the oil in his police car, although he says no one else was.
Karl: "I just wish that policies would be adhered to the same for everybody in the department.
Sergeant: "It's difficult for me to comment on that."
Karl: "I know."
"There was nothing that I couldn't do that I wouldn't get reprimanded for, even petty, petty things," said Mansoor.
Eventually though, the burden of knowing too much took its toll on Mansoor.
"I did tell the Chief that it was adversely affecting my health what I had been through and I felt that it was a work related concern. They took that opportunity to have me see a shrink," said Mansoor.
When Mansoor returned to work, he was forbidden to talk about anything negative concerning the police department. Mansoor says it was a violation of his first amendment rights, so he sued.
In 2002, he made headlines when a Federal Appeals court agreed with Mansoor. He won $180,000 dollars on behalf of the Albemarle County Police Department. During that suit, the chief never denied Mansoor's strong performance.
"I have never questioned Karl's service on the street,"said Chief Miller in one video deposition.
"He's a good officer?," asked Karl's attorney.
"I would say yes, he is," he replied.
Even after the suit, Mansoor continued working, but his problems only got worse.
"I guess lines were drawn and those that felt the same way that I did continued to be associated with me and supportive, where as those who decided they didn't want to speak up would limit their interaction with me," said Mansoor.
It got so bad, Mansoor says at times he was left without backup on calls. At this point he had enough. Feeling ousted by the same officers he once trusted, in 2004 Mansoor resigned and sued them once again--this time for forcing him out. This past December, they settled out of court for $200,000 dollars.
"Is it possible that some of the things that you've spoken about, maybe you exaggerated them a little bit?" asked reporter Sarah Batista.
"No I don't think I exaggerated them, if anything I...understated them. I was constantly trying to give people or incidents the benefit of the doubt," replied Mansoor.
Today, Mansoor is trying hard to move on with his family. He's working with a private security company. He's even considering writing a book about all of this and while the money he won in his lawsuit helped him financially, he says in the end it's not about the money. By telling his story he hopes the Albemarle County Police Department will, as he says, "clean up their act."
Mansoor stated, "I'd like to see officers treated fairly, and in terms citizens treated fairly, that's what I'd like to see."
The police department declined all requests for interviews, but in a statement released Monday Albemarle County Spokesperson Lee Catlin stated: "Mr. Karl Mansoor is a former county employee who has been involved in a number of matters of litigation against the county which have all been resolved. We don't have any additional comments on Mr. Mansoor's employment tenure or litigation issues at this time."