Former Dunwoody officer endorses whistleblowing legislation

This article features Government Accountability Project and was originally published here.

A former Dunwoody police officer and the nonprofit organization he works for have endorsed new legislation that would provide more protections for law enforcement whistleblowers.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement (SIGLE) Act into Congress on Feb. 18, according to a press release. If passed, the legislation would establish a “Special Inspector General” to conduct investigations into potential cases of abuse or misconduct committed by law enforcement officials.

According to the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group, the legislation would also provide confidentiality rights to officers, citizens, government employees, or others who witness misconduct and wish to report to the special inspector general. The act would also give anyone who faces discrimination because of their whistleblower status the ability to sue for damages.

The legislation comes following a 2021 letter to Congress signed by law enforcement officials across the country, including former Dunwoody police officer Austin Handle. Handle now serves as the vice chair for The Lamplighter Project, a nonprofit whistleblowing organization which endorsed the legislation.

In 2020, multiple Dunwoody Police Department employees alleged that former Lt. Fidel Espinoza sexually harassed them and in some cases asked for sexual favors for work benefits. Handle did not claim that Espinoza harassed him personally, but said he was aware of it and received harassment in other ways. The Dunwoody Police Department fired Handle on May 11, 2020, in what he alleges was a case of retaliation for speaking up about officer misconduct.

Brian Bolden, a Dunwoody prisoner transport officer who also signed the letter to Congress and accused Espinoza of bullying and sexual harassment, was recently put on administrative leave for allegedly violating a public criticism policy.

Handle is also the founder of Apollo AI, a hands-free voice assistant for law enforcement, that also endorsed the legislation.

“This bill will thrust open a safe passage for the ‘good cop’ to hold their peers accountable when reporting misconduct,” Handle said in a press release. “This legislation has the chance to circumvent and overcome deep-rooted, generational police misconduct by creating a safe distance where good cops can succeed without fear of retaliation.”