Garry Murphy was a Richmond, Kentucky police officer. Several weeks before October 26, 2009, Sgt. James Rogers responded to a domestic violence call at the home of April McQueen. Following that incident, Rogers and McQueen began a sexual relationship. During the course of the relationship, McQueen told Rogers that she enjoyed “rough sex,” “being dominated,” and sex with multiple partners.
On October 26, 2009, at McQueen’s invitation, Rogers, Murphy, and another officer from the Department went to McQueen’s home to have group sex. During the course of the night, McQueen suffered a split lip and bruises on her neck and other parts of her body. After the officers left her home, McQueen went to a neighbor’s house to get ice for her split lip. The neighbor encouraged McQueen to report the incident to the Sheriff’s Department, but McQueen refused.
The next morning, the neighbor, with the assistance of others, reported the incident to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department. According to McQueen, neighbors, acquaintances, and officers from the Sheriff’s Department coerced her into going to the hospital. At the hospital, McQueen underwent treatment for her split lip and bruises but refused to submit to a rape kit because she did not believe she had been raped.
A grand jury indicted the officers on a number of criminal charges, and the Police Department and the officers agreed to put the administrative proceedings in abeyance pending resolution of the criminal charges. Those charges were dismissed following a not guilty jury verdict. The Department then fired the officers, and Murphy appealed.
A state appeals court rejected Murphy’s claims. The Court reasoned that “Murphy argued that his conduct – engaging in consensual group sex that involved aspects of domination, submission, sadism, and masochism – did not, in and of itself, have any prohibited effect on the Police Department or its employees. Rather it was the publicity regarding that conduct that had the prohibited effect. We agree. Behavior that is completely private, i.e. known only to the participants, cannot reflect either negatively or positively on other officers or the Police Department and would likely not be the proper subject of discipline.
“However, Murphy’s argument misses the point because Murphy’s behavior, no matter his intent or the intent of the other participants, became public. The point of the two policies and procedures is to ensure that an officer’s behavior, if it becomes public, does not have an adverse impact on his fellow officers or the Police Department. Murphy chose to engage in conduct, which was likely to be viewed as aberrant by the community at large, with three other people. When he did so, he took the risk that his conduct would become public. He cannot now escape responsibility for his choice by claiming that he did nothing to publicize that conduct. To hold otherwise would render the Conduct Unbecoming and Conduct Impairing the Police Department policies and procedures meaningless.”
Murphy v. City of Richmond, 2013 WL 1163802 (Ky. App. 2013).
Note: The Murphy case was initially decided by the equivalent of a civil service board. Would an arbitrator have decided the case the same way, particularly given that the result of the criminal investigation was a conclusion that no criminal laws had been violated, that McQueen was a willing participant in the evening’s events, and that none of the officers had done anything to publicize the affair? Perhaps, but likely not.