White Cop Resigns From Mt. Healthy Police Department After Alleging Racial Discrimination Against His Black Brothers In Arms
A white officer resigned recently from Mount Healthy's police department, calling it a “sinking ship infested with hatred and retaliation," according to a federal lawsuit filed by a black officer who was fired last year.
The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati points blame at Mount Healthy’s police chief, Vince Demasi, who took the helm of the small department in January 2015.
The unnamed officer resigned, the lawsuit says, because he “could no longer witness Chief Demasi discriminate and retaliate against African-American police officers."
Demasi declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is pending.
"What I will say is – we don’t discriminate, we don’t have discriminatory practices," he said. "We would never participate in that kind of conduct."
Mount Healthy City Manager Bill Kocher also declined to comment.
The lawsuit, filed by Antwan Sparks, alleges the department retaliated against him after he made multiple complaints about racial discrimination he said he faced. It names the city as the defendant. It says Mount Healthy officials did not respond to Sparks' complaints.
Sparks is seeking to get his job back as well as unspecified monetary damages.
The lawsuit says the department’s leaders treated officers differently because of race and that black officers were disciplined for procedure or rule violations that did not lead to discipline for white officers.
The department is led by Demasi and two white sergeants, according to the lawsuit. Of the 16 officers under them in October 2015, three were black.
The city of 6,000 has about 2,000 black residents, according to U.S. Census figures.
An arbitrator in June ordered Mount Healthy to reinstate Sparks, but the department has not yet done that, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges Demasi, a former assistant police chief with the Cincinnati Police Department, expressed support for racially targeted policing. It says he told white festival attendees in May 2015 that he would "target African-American" youth for curfew violations since they "caused the problems in Mount Healthy."
Kocher said the lawsuit's allegations are being investigated, but no findings have been made.
"We take those things seriously," he said.
Lawsuit: No discipline until Demasi arrived
Sparks worked as a part-time officer for Lincoln Heights, left in 2013, and became an unpaid auxiliary part-time officer for Mount Healthy in January 2014, the lawsuit says.
He completed training and was promoted to paid part-time officer in February 2014. Sparks completed his one-year probationary period in February 2015.
The lawsuit says Sparks received no discipline before Demasi arrived in January 2015. About a week after Demasi arrived, however, the lawsuit says he extended Sparks probationary period, in violation of the union contract and the city’s employment manual. That was done, the lawsuit says, so that alleged infractions against Sparks could be used “as a basis to fail his probation.”
"Officer Sparks was treated fairly by Mount Healthy before Chief Demasi showed up," Sparks' attorney, Jennifer Branch, said in an interview.
In March 2015, Demasi, without explanation to Sparks, placed him on “no-duty” status, the lawsuit says. That meant he was not allowed to work as a police officer.
When Sparks missed a court hearing that same month because of his “no-duty” status, the lawsuit says, Demasi told a sergeant "to issue a written reprimand.” Sparks’ white partner, who also missed court the same day, did not receive a reprimand.
The lawsuit says the white officer missed three other court hearings the previous year. The department eventually did discipline the white officer – “but only after Officer Sparks complained he was being disciplined for missing court while other officers were not.”
Sparks first tried to resolve the problems internally, filing grievances with the department and the city. Both were rejected, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that on March 30, 2015, Demasi “stopped” Sparks at the police station when he was on his way to testify in court, making Sparks late. When he arrived at the courthouse, the case hadn’t been called. It eventually was dismissed when the accuser didn’t show up.
“Even though Officer Sparks arrived before his case was called, he received a written reprimand for failing to appear… at 9 a.m.," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says Demasi’s recommendation to fail Sparks as a probationary employee, which effectively terminated his employment, happened after the city responded to Sparks’ discrimination claims.
Sparks challenged his firing through an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, saying the firing was discriminatory and retaliatory.
In January, an arbitrator ruled in Sparks’ favor, finding that he had successfully completed his one-year probationary period. The arbitrator ordered the city to reinstate Sparks.
As of Wednesday, Sparks had not been reinstated.
Article Written By Kevin Grasha
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