MOUNT HEALTHY, Ohio – A former part-time police officer claims his police chief trumped up citizen complaints and false accusations of sexual misconduct and drug use against him and got him fired as part of long-standing racial discrimination in the department.
In a federal lawsuit against the city, David Scott, who is African-American, said Chief Vincent Demasi refused to promote him and other qualified part-time black officers to full-time positions, retaliated against him because he filed grievances with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and recommended terminating him because of race.
Demasi told WCPO he couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but did offer this statement: "We don't make any decision based on race. Never would."
Scott, who was hired in 2011, had a commendable record and had never been disciplined until Demasi became chief in January of 2015, the lawsuit says.
Demasi added four white full-time officers to a force with only one black full-time officer, passing over Scott and two other black part-timers in a selection process that was stacked against them, the lawsuit claims.
Scott said Demasi solicited complaints about him from people he had arrested, their friends and their families in order to justify firing him.
Scott claims in the suit Demasi falsely accused him of four instances of improper or criminal conduct with four women, including soliciting a personal relationship, sexual misconduct and drug use.
Demasi then violated MHPD policy by denying Scott‘s request to take a drug test and a polygraph test in order to refute those allegations, the lawsuit states. Demasi specifically instructed investigators not to interview Scott or even speak with him about the allegations, according to the suit.
Scott claims Demasi, a former assistant chief of the Cincinnati Police Department, had CPD’s Internal Investigations Unit investigate the allegations against him. The investigation was “patently flawed” because Scott and two of the four women were never interviewed, the suit says.
Scott was found to have violated CPD regulations, but those are not binding on MHPD. Scott was cleared of drug use allegations, but two of the remaining allegations were sustained even though Scott had been on duty at a different location during one of the alleged incidents, according to the suit.
After the city fired Scott, Demasi ordered a second investigation that required an officer to contact every woman who received a ticket from Scott in a one-year period and ask them if they had an accusation of sexual misconduct or other inappropriate conduct against Scott, the suit claims.
In the suit, Scott claims he witnessed a pattern of discrimination against blacks in the department following his 2011 hiring. That included a previous chief’s refusal to discipline white officers who used the N-word or called a black an “ape,” Scott said.
The suit claims Demasi contributed to “an atmosphere of racially targeted policing when he told white festival goers in May 2015 that he would target African American children for curfew violations since African American children caused the problems in Mt. Healthy.”
The suit accuses Demasi of not giving equal treatment to African-American officers, denying them training and equipment and unfairly disciplining them in comparison to white officers.
In 2012, Scott was named “officer of the year” by the city and received the Community Policing Award. In 2013, Scott had more narcotic arrests and gun recoveries than any other Mount Healthy officer. He received numerous letters of commendation from citizen, the suit states.
But Scott didn’t get his due opportunity to be promoted to full-time in 2015, the suit claims.
By rule, the MHPD was authorized to fill the positions from the ranks of part-time officers based on seniority. But rather than hiring three African American officers, MHPD held a written examination for the jobs, according to the suit.
“According to Mt. Healthy policies, part-time officers who had worked beyond their initial probationary period, like Scott, were to be given preference in the hiring of any new full-time officer positions," the suit says. "Instead, Mt. Healthy hired four Caucasian officers that had either no experience with the police force or less experience than Officer Scott and other similarly situated African American part-time officers.”
Scott and another African-American part-time officer filed a grievance over the failure to comply with the labor agreement. Demasi denied their grievance, the suit says.
After that, the suit states Demasi falsely accused Scott of writing and distributing a letter that said Mt. Healthy had discriminatory hiring practices. Demasi reprimanded Scott and recommended Scott be terminated.
Scott was then suspended in violation of the Mount Healthy policy regarding progressive discipline, the suit says.
At a July 1, 2015 disciplinary hearing, Scott was told for the first time that a number of citizen complaints had been filed against him since Demasi became chief. Two weeks later, the city cited those complaints as justification for firing him.
In 2016, an arbitrator found in favor of Scott, rescinded his termination and awarded him back pay. But Mount Healthy has refused to permit Scott to return to his position as a part-time officer, according to the suit.
Scott’s suit is seeking reinstatement and lost wages from the date he was not promoted. If the court finds that reinstating him is not practical, he's asking for front pay from the end of trial until he gets a job with similar opportunities and pay. He also wants punitive damages and expenses.
WCPO also left a message for Mount Healthy City Manager William Kocher for comment on the suit.