Lawsuit Alleges Racial Hostility Against Pocomoke Officers - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Lawsuit Alleges Racial Hostility Against Pocomoke Officers

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

BALTIMORE- Attorneys representing Pocomoke City's former police chief and two other black officers filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday accusing city officials and members of other law enforcement agencies of racial discrimination.
    
The filing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore comes after last year's departure of Kelvin Sewell, Pocomoke's first black chief, stoked racial tensions in the small community on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
    
Defendants named in the lawsuit include members of Pocomoke city government, the Worcester County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police, and Worcester County State's Attorney Beau Oglesby.
    
The lawsuit claims that Sewell and Officer Franklin Savage were targets of racial hostility, retaliation and discrimination before being improperly fired. Meanwhile, Lt. Lynell Green, who remains on the force, has been the subject of retaliation for supporting Savage and has been ostracized by the entire department, the lawsuit claims.
    
"The intervention of this court is vitally necessary to make clear to some members of the law enforcement community on the Eastern Shore that this blatant disregard of federal constitutional and statutory rights will not be tolerated," the lawsuit states.
    
Attorneys for the ACLU of Maryland and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs joined in the lawsuit.
    
Pocomoke city manager Ernie Crofoot said he was reviewing the lawsuit and had no comment. Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley declined comment, citing the pending litigation. Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason did not respond to an email seeking comment, and Oglesby's office did not comment after being sent a copy of the complaint.
    
Sewell has claimed that he was dismissed for refusing city officials' demands that he fire Savage and Green.
    
After Sewell's firing, some residents of the town, which bills itself as "The Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore," began a petition to have him reinstated and called for Mayor Bruce Morrison's ouster.
    
Pocomoke City leaders have previously defended their decision to fire Sewell but said they are prohibited from commenting because of privacy rules and pending litigation.
    
The allegations of discrimination stem from Savage's two-year stint on the Worcester County Criminal Enforcement Team, a multijurisdictional drug unit. Savage, the only black officer on the task force, filed an EEOC complaint last year saying he was repeatedly subjected to racial slurs and harassment.

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