A group of police officers have accused top executives of the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center of installing secret video cameras and microphone in an employee changing room. The allegations are included in a newly filed federal lawsuit, reviewed by the News-4 I-Team.
In the suit, at least 24 current or former medical center police officers allege management ordered the installation of a hidden camera and microphone inside the facility's police officer control room, Room 1E200.
The officers said they discovered a camera in January 2014 and allege the camera's "indicator" light, which would indicate video recording was underway, was covered with black electric tape.
According to the lawsuit, the officers also discovered a microphone, then covered the microphone by hand while discussing how to respond to their discovery.
The officers, in their court filings, said they found another hidden camera and microphone in January in a room used as a changing area for officers. According to their lawsuit, "To the best of the Named Plaintiff's knowledge, these cameras remain in use as of the filing of this action." The officers said the camera violated their reasonable expectation of privacy in the changing room.
Officers allege they found another hidden camera and microphone in a space used as an officer break room in March 2014. In their suit, the officers said recordings from that camera were used in a disciplinary matter, in which an officer was suspended from work for two weeks.
An attorney representing the officers provided images of the alleged cameras and microphone recording devices to the News-4 I-Team.
The officers said "real-time" feeds of the video and audio of these cameras is made available to Jerry Brown, the medical center's chief of police, according to the suit. They allege the cameras were not authorized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs security division. The officers said Brown and Brian Hawkins, director of the medical center, conspired to install the cameras to spy on employees.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released the following statement: "VA remains vigilant in maintaining a workplace environment that protects our employees. However, we cannot not comment on this case due to pending litigation."
Attorney Ken Gauvey, who is representing the police officers who filed the lawsuit, said, "As a result of some disciplinary matters, we strongly believe there are other cameras as conversations in other rooms have been used to discipline the officers."
As many as 100 medical center employees could join the lawsuit, according to court filings.
The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center employs about 2,000 workers and volunteers. More than 106,000 veterans are enrolled to seek care at the facility on Irving Street NW.