WRAL Investigates

Former head of Raleigh police interest group sues to get job back

Posted October 26, 2011
Updated November 14, 2011

— A fired Raleigh police officer strongly denies accusations that he had extramarital sex while on duty and claims in a lawsuit that he was dismissed unfairly because of his association with a local police interest group.

Rick Armstrong, who was a police sergeant, filed suit Wednesday against Police Chief Harry Dolan and the city of Raleigh to get his job back.

Armstrong claims that Dolan targeted him because he was president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, a professional association that represents the interests of police officers.

"While I am a party to the lawsuit, it is really about the survival of the RPPA as an effective voice for the concerns of Raleigh police officers," he said.

He pointed to the fact that two other RPPA members, including its new president, Sgt. Eric DeSimone, have been placed on administrative leave or administrative duty as proof of retaliation.

Dolan said in a statement Wednesday that it would be inappropriate for him to comment but that he was confident the City Attorney's office would review the lawsuit and take appropriate action.

City Manager Russell Allen said he hadn't seen the complaint yet and can't comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.

"The city is very careful and diligent in reviewing any disciplinary action," he said.

Armstrong, who had been with the Raleigh Police Department since 1997, resigned as president of the RPPA and was fired this summer. Allen upheld his firing on Sept. 27.

The department's Internal Affairs Unit began investigating an October 2009 police officer complaint about officers having sex with a prostitute.

The suit states that investigators deemed accusations that Armstrong had sex with a prostitute as "unfounded," but they recommended in May that he be fired for "sex on duty" with a woman identified only by the last name Flores.

Armstrong strongly denied the accusation that he had sex with the woman.

"I did befriend Ms. Flores and her children," he said. "I never engaged in any inappropriate sexual actions of any sort with Ms. Flores."

Ex-officer says brass targets police group members Ex-officer says brass targets police group members

Armstrong said he met Flores through community policing, and both he and his wife reached out to her from a motivation, as Catholics, to "help those less fortunate." They took toys and clothing for her six children, invited her children to their children's birthday parties and took her children to dinner or the movies for their birthdays.

"My actions were consistent with my faith and with the practices of the Raleigh Police Department," he said. "My help to Ms. Flores and her family has now become the linchpin that the chief uses to justify my firing."

His suit says that Flores claimed to have sex with Armstrong only when confronted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who threatened that she could be deported.

"I forgive what Ms. Flores did. She did the only thing that she thought that she could do to be able to keep her family together," Armstrong said.

His wife, Nancy Armstrong, said she believes her husband has been faithful to her. His firing has meant a financial and emotional struggle for their family, but the ordeal has ultimately strengthened their marriage, she said.

"I know he didn't do anything wrong, or I wouldn't be standing here," Nancy Armstrong said.

Rick Armstrong said the effort put into the 18-month Internal Affairs investigation shows that Dolan "manufactured several more excuses to justify my firing" and disciplinary action against other RPPA members.

Internal Affairs investigators interviewed 39 people; followed Armstrong to record his movements and took pictures of him; put GPS trackers on his patrol car and personal vehicles belonging to both Armstrong and his wife; and retrieved the records for his work phone and his and his wife's personal phones, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that investigators installed a surveillance camera on a pole near Flores' home, when she moved out of the city.

"This investigation was essentially a runaway train -- it knew no limits," Armstrong said. "These are resources that could and should have been better used to fight crime and protect Raleigh citizens." 

The 2,000-page investigation report doesn't include a transcript or recording of Flores' interview with ICE, which the suit says is the "only evidence that supposedly establishes" the accusations of sexual misconduct. Armstrong also says the report paraphrases and "mischaracterizes" statements he made during an interview with investigators.

"These tremendous resources were focused on me because I and the RPPA were an effective voice for police officers of the Raleigh Police Department, and Chief Dolan was not happy with that," Armstrong said.

The suit claims that more than 30 members of the RPPA have resigned from the group since Armstrong was fired, which he says resulted from "a fear for their careers."

Approximately 550 Raleigh police officers, or more than two-thirds of the Raleigh Police Department, are members of the RPPA.

The suits requests an injunction to prohibit the city or police department from "intimidating and discouraging" RPPA activities and requests that Armstrong be reinstated to the police force, with back pay. He is also seeking compensation for damage to his professional reputation. The suit alleges that his termination violated his rights to free speech and due process.

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  • injusticeabounds Oct 28, 9:05 a.m.

    Smaller agencies in Wake County are riddled with this kind of management style. These commanders do not work to better their Police Officer's. It is becoming more and more apparent these individuals consider their police officer's inferior and treat them as liabilities instead of assets. We come to work day in and day out putting our lives on the line and ask nothing in return. Is it so unreasonable that we expect to have support from the very people who hired us? These types of commanders and like minded Officer's (IA team, Dolan, Command Staff,and politicians included) should all form their own agency, so those of us who only want to do our jobs and serve without fear of injustice at the hands of the very people who should be protecting us, can sit back and watch them rip each other apart. THAT would be Justice!

  • john24 Oct 27, 4:52 p.m.

    Wow, WRAL... Just barely over 24 hours, and this story has been dumped from the front page. How much air time and front-page time did you give the original stories, where you implied he was sleeping with a prostitute?

  • wcnc Oct 27, 4:13 p.m.

    "If your that naive, I have a nice bridge for sale that you can have very cheap."

    Well, first of all, it's "you're"...... The Chief works for the City Manager, not the other way around. If the report backs up the firing, then of course the Manager would stand behind it. I didn't say the report was 100% accurate.... I do believe I said we truly don't know both sides of the story.

    I agree that when a man puts himself in a place with a women he opens himself up to all sorts of accusations. Maybe nothing did happen, but Armstrong put himself in a position to be accused. He wouldn't deserve a firing for that, if that is all that happened.

    Let's not forget the original claim of sex with a prostitute that the media reported. It seems like that was unsubstantiated, yet everyone jumped on it as if it was truth. So, let's let both sides come out before believing one or the other.

  • imho2011 Oct 27, 2:13 p.m.

    I find it interesting and very telling that everyone who knows Armstrong (myself included) has not a single bad word to say about him.

  • nadianboone Oct 27, 12:29 p.m.

    During my career in law enforcement, I worked with officer Armstrong and know enough about him to say that I wish every officer had as much integrity, commitment, and honesty as Armstrong. He is a good man and a great Police Officer.

  • bosshog Oct 27, 12:28 p.m.

    SouthernLady & Superdad...AMEN!!!

    Rand321...really?? Still the silly/childish jokes? Read the formal court complaint...there's no audio, no video, no physical evidence, nothing! Just a absurdly long and COSTLY investigation that turned up NOTHING...until days before Armstrong was placed on leave when they interrogated Flor Flores at ICE, not IA, ICE...hmmm...!! After hours of intimidation, she says what they want to hear & ding, ding ding...we have a solid case of "he said/she said", he being a decent guy & she being an illegal immigrant who leaves 6 kids at home alone while she works. Helllooo...McFly???

    Geez, a 5 year old could figure that one out. Look at the facts and try making an educated comment.

  • WritNEWlaws Oct 27, 12:11 p.m.

    I have always been told that if you are married then you should never put yourself into a situation where you are alone with a woman at her home ( no matter how innocent) or the wife with another man. I have heard too many stories coming out such as this one. I believe in lending a helping hand but he may have taken it too far and this put his job into jeporady. If she did lie, time for her to go back to her REAL home!

  • WritNEWlaws Oct 27, 12:04 p.m.

    @Nor is his wife, I would bet my life she wouldn't stand beside him if there were any inkling that these claims had any merit.

    If he did infact go to this Flores's home by himself, there is no way of "really" knowing the truth unless you are standing there. Something just does not sound right with this whole case.

  • WritNEWlaws Oct 27, 12:01 p.m.

    Question..... How could saying that she (Flores) having sex with this officer keep her from being deported? Maybe I missed something?

  • SouthernLady05 Oct 27, 11:33 a.m.

    "I can't wait to see how it pans out in the courtroom!!whatinthe"

    Dolan will probably refuse to answer questions, just like the last case he lost like this... up in Grand Rapids.

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