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Second Homewood police officer files lawsuit, alleges discrimination and racism

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Former police dispatcher Charity Howard has filed her second complaint in three years against the Homewood Police Department for allegedly violating her sick leave, not giving her an adequate place to breastfeed and retaliating against her for filing a lawsuit against the department due to her running on February 10, 2022.

Howard was one of two officers to file a racism lawsuit on February 10, the other being HPD officer Victor Sims II, who accused the HPD of downgrading him from detective to patrolman in because of racism and discrimination.

While Howard was on sick leave due to a tumor discovered on her spine, her supervisor, Steve Sparks, told her he wanted her back to work before her designated time off to give two more dispatchers non-emergency medical leave, the lawsuit alleges, with the two dispatchers both being white.

According to the lawsuit, Howard complained to Spark’s supervisor, Lt. Keith Peterson, about the alleged double standard between African American and Caucasian officers. Peterson, allegedly, did not deny the double standard and said he would look into the matter, but Howard never heard from him, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also referenced another dispatcher who was allegedly escorted by police off the premises for asking to leave work due to illness while Caucasian officers requested inconsequential leave.

In May 2019, Howard filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, then a lawsuit, against the department and was questioned about the complaint by a “Homewood representative”. in late July 2019, according to the lawsuit.

That previous lawsuit was dismissed by Federal Judge Staci Cornelius in March 2021.

Howard again complained to Police Chief Tim Ross and Internal Affairs Sgt. Doug Finch (now lieutenant) in an email about how she was treated the previous week on September 18, 2019, according to the lawsuit, but was allegedly accused of “illicit social media“.

According to the lawsuit, Ross and Finch were referring to a video Howard posted on social media one to two years prior about breastfeeding, which resulted in her being reprimanded by Ross.

The lawsuit noted that Howard was on a break and had her badge covered so she would not be identified as an employee of the police department or the city of Homewood. Comparisons were made in the lawsuit between how Howard was treated regarding his social media posts as opposed to white police officers and staff. .

Weeks after Howard was reprimanded, according to the lawsuit, Sparks posted a Facebook meme “depicting an old Caucasian man holding a rather large handgun and a red cap reading ‘Right Wing Fanatic,’ captioned ‘Too Old. to Fight, Too Slow to Run, I’ll just shoot you and be done with it. “”The meme was not taken down until six months later, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also cited a Finch meme posted on Facebook in March 2020 in which the caption read, “WE USED TO PACK G**KS (an offensive term for someone of Filipino, Vietnamese or Korean descent) LIKE YOU FOUR DEEP IN KOREA. YOU USED FOR SANDBAGS. The caption was a quote from the Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino.”

According to the lawsuit, Finch was not reprimanded and the post “hung around” for three years until a lawsuit filed by Howard led to the video being taken down.

The lawsuit also referenced videos uploaded to social media by HPD officer Cpl. Jon Newland in June 2020, who posted what Howard called “incendiary and racist ‘rap’ videos on social media”. According to the lawsuit, Newland was in uniform in at least one of his videos and “celebrated ‘Valhalla’ – Norse ‘paradise’ and a common trope of white supremacy; said: ‘With a rebellious cry I will prevail;’ promised that, as someone who wears “black and blue,” “around your neck, I flex this choke;” and included the chorus: “Empathy is what I feel, but I’m always ready to kill.”

Newland was suspended for three days and demoted from corporal to officer by Ross after his videos were made public by the media, but were not finalized until July 2020, according to the lawsuit. Newland is no longer with HPD.

In July 2020, Howard was fired, following a situation in which she made comments online during a Homewood vigil for George Floyd, according to the lawsuit. Howard responded to a comment made by a Facebook commenter who said the vigil aides violated a “protest law,” according to the lawsuit, to which Howard replied, “What ‘protest law’ are they breaking?” The right to freedom of assembly?

Howard also made comments online against Newland’s social media posts but, according to the lawsuit, they were “restrained and positive.”

During Howard’s dismissal hearing, Ross and Finch accused Howard of not cooperating with her investigation of the incident and of not checking in with Finch during the suspension, which the lawsuit says she didn’t. was not required to do so.

A Homewood police spokesperson would not comment on the allegations in Sims’ lawsuit. sergeant. HPD’s John Carr said it was departmental policy not to comment on ongoing litigation. Carr sent copies of both the judge’s dismissal of the former lawsuit, as well as the upholding of Howard’s dismissal by the Jefferson County Staff Council, which sided with the HPD and concluded that she had violated department policy.

In the Staff Council report, the police department said Howard violated department policy by using social media during his shift. They cited her “refusal” to cooperate with the investigation into her social media posts as the reason Peterson recommended she be fired.

Howard, in her lawsuit, claimed she was not opposed to answering questions, but was opposed to speaking with Finch, against whom she had already filed a grievance.

The Homewood Star will continue to follow this story as it develops.