Monday, April 16, 2007

I'd say this police department has some problems.

Story from the Daily Report - read on!

Police Sgt. Patrick Welles got a call for backup one night in 2004 and told the dispatcher he was busy but would be there shortly. It turned out he was busy having sex with a woman in his patrol car, investigators say. The 12-year veteran was fired for conduct unbecoming an officer and other departmental violations, including misuse of city property.

But now the black officer has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit, claiming white colleagues on the Chattanooga force did similar things — or worse — and were allowed to keep their jobs.

A federal investigator with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed Welles was treated differently. The EEOC reported that the police department ''had knowledge of white officers who violated policy and committed sexual offenses such as rape, masturbation in public, sexual harassment, domestic assault and various of other terminable or egregious offenses, but followed progressive disciplinary procedures as well as resignation or reinstatement for those not of the charging party's race.''

Welles, in his April 9 lawsuit, is asking for reinstatement and back pay, or at least $100,000.
An assistant in the Chattanooga city attorney's office, Kenneth O. Fritz, declined to comment, as did the white police chief who fired Welles, Steve Parks, and Parks' successor, Freeman Cooper, who is black.

Welles told City Council members at an appeal hearing that he had gone to a bar around 2 a.m. for a business check and picked up a woman who had just been fired and was arguing with her employers at the bar. Welles said he drove her to a secluded area, where they had sex in his car.

He said it took less time than a lunch break.

An internal affairs investigation found that while Welles was with the woman, he failed to back up other officers when a dispatcher reported a disorder at a business.

Welles' attorney, Stuart James, said: ''Regardless of the offense, when you see a pattern where white officers are treated differently, it raises a suspicion there may be discrimination because of race.''The lawsuit cites other cases in which white officers were allowed to keep their jobs:

— One officer, charged with rape on city property while on duty, was given only a 28-day suspension and is still employed by the department, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit does not specify the outcome of the criminal charges.
— A lieutenant was disciplined for sexual harassment of an officer — using a city computer to mail sexually explicit material to a female employee. But he was restored to lieutenant after an appeal, the suit says.

Shelley Parker, an attorney for the police department, said the lawsuit would be vigorously defended. Parker said he could not recall some of the examples cited in the suit that involved white officers.

Leamon Pierce, a black city councilman who voted to uphold Welles' firing, said an officer having sex in a patrol car is ''totally out of character for a police officer. Everyone who would come before the council, we would take the same action.'' The councilman said of Welles' contention that he wasn't the only one to commit such an offense: ''You can't justify a wrong with another wrong.''

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