By Ed Brock
Riverdale Police Chief Mike Edwards has shuffled his assistant chief after an investigation was conducted over whether there is racial discrimination in the department.
The chief said he is inviting further investigation into rumors of discontent among some black officers who feel they are being discriminated against.
Edwards said he asked retired Thomasville Police Chief John Perry to perform an investigation into the rumors and that investigation seemed to show no racial discrimination in the department.
However, it did lead Edwards to eliminate the position of assistant chief and moved the man who had filled that position, Maj. Paul Weathers, to another position.
Weathers could not be reached for comment, but attorney Lee Sexton, who is representing Weathers in talking to the media, said he would only give one statement on the situation.
"The former assistant chief has never been a racist and would never be a racist," Sexton said.
There had been confusion among some officers who thought they had to come to Weathers for every issue before coming to him, Edwards said, and he wanted to eliminate that confusion. Also, the report showed that some African American officers felt that Weathers was harder on them than on white officers.
Edwards said he doesn't think that accusation is true, but he needed to eliminate the position anyway.
Now Edwards and the Riverdale City Council have been in touch with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to arrange other investigations.
"When I first heard the rumors that some black officers were dissatisfied I invited all black officers to a meeting," Edwards said. "Nobody attended."
That's when Edwards sought out Gary Robinette, a former FBI agent with a good reputation for investigating civil rights abuses. Robinette was unable to take the case, but he referred Edwards on to Perry.
Weathers is now over the department's criminal investigation division rather than being over both the CID and the uniform division.
Perry's report cites comments and complaints from seven members of the department regarding the alleged racial discrimination, Officer Alex Manning, Officer John Guest, Maj. James Eason, Capt. Greg Barney, Officer Terry Harget, Officer Russell Rogers and Capt. Phillip Neely. Not all of the officers are black, but Neely, Barney and Freeman told Perry they had experienced what they thought were discriminatory acts.
The report says that Neely felt he was unduly punished for an ethics violation in connection with a charge of fixing tickets and a use of force complaint. Barney told Perry he was told that Weathers called him by a racial slur and was wrongly accused by Weathers of lying about a chase.
Freeman, who has a pending lawsuit against the city according to the report, also said he was falsely accused of lying during an internal investigation and has been discriminated against because he is black.
Other officers complained that Weathers created a difficult working environment by being "erratic in handing out discipline" and being vindictive.
Perry recommended that Edwards "neutralize powers, actual or perceived, held by" Weathers in order to ease the concerns of officers in the department.