Former Philly police detective files federal complaint over termination and subsequent demotion

Jon Campisi Oct. 19, 2011, 9:54am

A former Philadelphia police detective has filed a federal complaint against the city, the police commissioner and two psychologists, alleging his initial firing, and subsequent failure to reinstate him to his previous position, was unwarranted.

Willow Grove, Pa. attorney David S. Dessen, of the law firm of Dessen, Moses & Rossitto, filed the wrongful termination complaint Oct. 17 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Rex Rosiji.

The defendants named in the suit are the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and psychologists Ariane M. Thomas and Andrew T. Wolanin.

According to the complaint, Rosiji was fired from his police department job in June 2006 for allegedly requesting and using military leave time instead of vacation time for a work absence in January 2006.

In late July 2006, Rosiji was arrested and criminally charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, securing the execution of documents by deception, unsworn falsification to authorities, and tampering with public records, all in connection with his alleged use of military leave time.

In October 2006, a city judge dismissed the charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property for lack of evidence.

In December 2007, a jury found Rosiji not guilty of the charges of theft by deception, unsworn falsification to authorities and tampering with public records. The charge of securing the execution of documents by deception was nolle prossed.

Following the verdict, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 pushed for Rosiji’s reinstatement. Rosiji soon filed a grievance pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between the police department and the city after officials initially refused to reinstate him to his prior position, the lawsuit states.

In October 2008, Rosiji received word that he would, indeed, be reinstated to his previous job, without back pay, only if he would be recertified as a police officer under the Municipal Police Officers’ Education & Training Commission’s rules and regulations. This would include interviews by city-appointed psychologists.

Shortly after the settlement agreement, Rosiji was reinstated at his original base salary of $55,603, and assigned to a desk job in the police department’s 39th District. Still, Rosiji had yet to undergo the psychological evaluation that would enable him to return to street duty, the suit states.

After two psychologists interviewed him, Rosiji barely missed the threshold that would have permitted reinstatement, so he was unable to be recertified by the MPOETC. The claim is that the psychologists asked questions relating to the events leading up to the prior criminal charges against Rosiji, inquiries that caused the psychologists to give lower numerical scores in the exam than what would have been allowed to ensure the plaintiff would have received full reinstatement.

In October 2009, Police Commissioner Ramsey sent Rosiji a letter informing him that because of the results of the psychological exam, Rosiji could not be recertified as a police officer, and would be demoted from the position of police officer to police reports control clerk, which would essentially cut his salary in half, the suit states.

The lawsuit contains counts of denial of property without due process of law, breach of contract, and misuse of criminal history record information.

Through his lawsuit Rosiji seeks compensatory damages against the defendants, jointly and severally, for their denial of Rosiji’s right to due process of law, punitive damages against Ramsey and the two doctors, an order directing the city to arrange for appropriate psychological evaluation to be conducted jointly by a psychologist chosen by the city and one chosen by the plaintiff, attorney’s fees and other court relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06469-RK.

More News