Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  Appeals Court Upholds Contested Discipline in the Case of Andre Hill v. City of Richmond
July 3, 2021

In the bitter debate over defunding Richmond Police, critics of the police like to point out the relatively few instances of police misconduct  and characterize them as routine and typical and one of the justifications for reduction in force.

To show that such isolated incidents are not shoved under the the rug or go undisciplined, take a look at the case of Andre Hill, who was a lieutenant in the Richmond Police Department and terminated from employment in 2017 after having engaged in a months-long sexting relationship, on and off duty, and one instance of off-duty sexual conduct with 18-year-old Jasmine Abuslin.  Hill, who was the supervisor of the Youth Services Division at the time of his misconduct, was found by former City Manager Bill Lindsay to have engaged in a very serious lapse of judgment and “conduct unbecoming” in pursuing a sexual liaison with a troubled, at-risk youth. As a result of the ensuing media coverage, including publication of some of the vulgar text messages between Hill and Abuslin, Hill’s misconduct brought substantial discredit to and a loss of public trust in himself and the police department.

See “Ex-Richmond Cop Swapped Sexually Explicit Texts with Exploited Teen While on Duty.”

In making the decision to terminate, the city manager rejected recommendations of lesser discipline from the former police chief (3-week suspension), Skelly officer (demotion to police officer) and the administrative law judge who conducted the post-termination administrative hearing (demotion to police officer), which were largely based on Hill’s years of service and lack of prior discipline. Lindsay maintained that Hill’s lapse of judgment was egregious and unacceptable for any rank of police officer. Lindsay wrote in his final decision imposing termination, “All law enforcement officers, regardless of rank, must demonstrate sound and ethical judgment, must behave in a manner that does not discredit the officer or the agency, and must always strive to uphold the public trust.” He found Hill’s continued employment in any capacity incompatible with these standards.

Hill filed a writ of administrative mandamus in superior court challenging his termination as an abuse of discretion, arguing the City’s decision was not supported by its findings, its findings were not supported by the evidence, and its findings were contrary to law. The trial court found no abuse of discretion and denied the writ.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and the Court of Appeal decision becomes final on July 30, 2021.