Crime

Black officers sue Fort Worth, ex-police chief

Former Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead
Former Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead Star-Telegram archives

Three more black officers have filed a federal lawsuit against former Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead and the city, alleging their civil rights were violated.

Lt. Eldridge Edney and Sgts. Roy Hudson and Dwayne Dalco filed the lawsuit Monday, claiming they faced racial discrimination, harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation. They are requesting a jury trial and seeking $2 million in damages, including for emotional distress, loss of reputation and humiliation.

The filing comes one month after another African-American officer, 24-year veteran Sgt. Delbert Johnson, filed a similar federal lawsuit against the city, Halstead and retired Sgt. Dave Stamp.

Halstead retired from law enforcement last week. He declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

City spokeswoman Michelle Gutt said, “We have not been served, so we can’t comment on the lawsuit at this time.”

Ray Jackson, the Dallas attorney representing the three officers, said that they faced pervasive discrimination under Halstead and that the chief’s departure does not take away their right to seek remedies.

“If I hit you in a car and you were injured and hurt and you went to a chiropractor and three months later you feel better, do you not deserve to get paid for the pain and suffering you sustained for three months?” he said.

Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said the group “supports the right of any officer that believes they have been wronged to seek resolution through processes and procedures upon which this country was founded.”

“Everyone deserves their due-process rights to be respected and their voices heard,” Van Houten said. “It is unfortunate that this situation has eroded to this point and this drastic of a measure has been taken.

“The FWPOA will continue to proactively develop and reinforce solid relationships with everyone involved and through these relationships heal past wounds to move forward as a unified advocate for all officers in an inclusive environment.”

The accusations

The allegations stem from a February 2013 meeting that Dalco and Hudson had with Assistant City Manager Charles Daniels. At the time, Dalco was president of the Fort Worth Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association and Hudson was vice president.

The lawsuit alleges that Halstead ordered internal affairs to investigate the two men to determine whether the meeting violated the city’s meet-and-confer agreement. Under the contract, the Fort Worth Police Officers Association is the only group allowed to bargain with the city on behalf of officers.

The lawsuit says that although internal affairs informed Halstead that no violation had occurred, he ordered another white officer to file a formal complaint so the investigation would continue.

“Sgt. Dalco and Sgt. Hudson had done absolutely nothing wrong and should not have been investigated by” internal affairs, the lawsuit says. “The investigation was conducted solely because of Sgt. Dalco and Sgt. Hudson’s race.”

Dalco, a 27-year veteran, filed a grievance with the human resources department.

The lawsuit says the city violated policy by failing to address the grievance in a timely manner. The city hired an outside consultant group, Coleman & Associates, to investigate only after the two officers filed more complaints with the mayor and city manager, the suit alleges.

The Coleman report found no hard evidence of racial discrimination but did note that the department’s chain of command knew of harassing behavior and failed to stop it. It also said Halstead’s use of internal affairs to investigate a possible meet-and-confer violation was not consistent with procedures outlined in the local government code.

The suit says Halstead retaliated against Dalco and Hudson for their complaints by meeting with non-African-American officers to discuss creating a hostile work environment for the sergeants.

Dalco has had to endure racial comments and was labeled a troublemaker, the suit says. Hudson, an 18-year veteran and the current president of the black officers association, has faced numerous threats, insults and personal attacks and has lost 28 pounds and been diagnosed with major depression, anxiety and ulcers, the suit says.

“Every day that Sgt. Hudson has to come to work he’s looking over his shoulder and wondering what is going to happen to him each day,” the suit says. “Sgt. Hudson has been personally attacked in person as well as on law enforcement social media pages. Sgt. Hudson is afraid for not only himself but also his family.”

A transfer and loss of income

Edney, a 29-year department veteran, alleges that problems began for him after a 2010 incident in which three sergeants were accused of building and photographing a snowman — with a police cap, a noose around its neck and a banana in its hand — outside traffic headquarters.

The incident, which resulted in a commander’s admonishment for two of the sergeants, led to discord among supervisors in the traffic division, the suit says.

Though Edney has said he tried to repair morale in the division, the lawsuit states that he was soon targeted by higher-ups who accused him of having allegiances with others. The suit says he was unfairly transferred out of the traffic division and placed on a shift that required him to work all weekends and holidays.

“This was a punch to Lt. Edney’s gut, completely changing the quality of his and his family’s personal lives and likewise severely impacting the amount of compensation he was making because he no longer got overtime hours that he had been receiving when he was in traffic,” the lawsuit says.

Because of the shift change, Edney also lost his part-time secondary job, the lawsuit states. The transfer cost Edney about $30,000 in lost income, the suit alleges.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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