A Washington, D.C. police supervisor was fired after providing expert testimony in an ACLU lawsuit.
On September 27, 2017, Officer Sean Lojacono conducted a search of a man in Southeast Washington, D.C.. The search was captured on a cell phone video that went viral online after it was posted on YouTube. The video showed Lojacono aggressively and intrusively searching M.B. Cottingham. The search led to an ACLU lawsuit that accused Lojacono of “repeatedly jamming one or more fingers into (his) anal cavity and grabbing his genitalia … without a warrant, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or consent.” The ACLU lawsuit was settled out of court.
A few hours after the search of Cottingham, Officer Lojacono conducted a similar search, which was recorded by two police body cameras. In the footage, Lojacono is seen searching a man in the same way that he searched Cottingham. The man in the video reportedly says “you’re sticking your fingers in my ass” and that Lojacono is “violating him as a man.” The DC Police department fired Officer Lojacono because of the way that this search was conducted.
Lojacono appealed his firing. He claimed that he knew that the searches violated his training and the general orders of the DC Metropolitan Police Department, but said that veteran officers instructed him to conduct searches in this manner. Lojacono testified that they way he conducted the body searches on September 27, 2017 was a common practice and that he had conducted hundreds of similar searches during his 5-year career.
The Expert Testimony
J.J. Brennan is a Washington, D.C. police supervisor who reviewed the video footage and provided expert witness testimony at Officer Lojacono’s hearing. Brennan testified that Lojacono’s search met the general order guidelines of the police department.
Lojacono’s attorney Marc Wilhite said, “J.J. Brennan wanted to make it very very clear to the panel that this is what is allowed under the general orders. This is what is actually taught and instructed for officers because you have safety as well not only because you could have contraband there but you could also have weapons.”
Brennan’s testimony was contradicted by three other police officers, including his commander.
The day after Brennan’s testimony, he was given a letter of termination. The letter of termination stated that his commander had lost confidence in Brennan’s ability to manage members of the major narcotics unit following his trial testimony. The letter quoted from Brennan’s trial testimony, where he stated that you follow the rules and general orders of the police department “when you can” and “I always told people that worked for me, don’t be afraid to go up in the crotch.”
Prior to his firing, Brennan had spent 43 years on the force as a sergeant. Brennan was currently serving as a civilian supervisor at the time of his firing.
Brennan spoke with FOX 5 news after his firing, saying that he was “very bitter and angry” over the firing. The people he searched might also be bitter and angry about the violations of their constitutional rights.