A black Galloway Township police officer has filed a lawsuit against the township and the Police Department claiming colleagues used a racial slur multiple times in his presence in his 12 and a half years in the department, creating a hostile work environment.
The township issued a statement strongly denying the charges, and Township Manager Arch Liston called the litigation “garbage.”
In the lawsuit, filed Jan. 31 in Atlantic County Civil Court, Officer Brian Tennant, who was hired in November 2000, claims two officers and two dispatchers used the slur several times, and the department did not do anything to stop it or conduct sensitivity training until he threatened a suit.
Tennant also alleges he was treated unfairly because of his race by being demoted from the county SWAT team in June and was disciplined following an Internal Affairs investigation for using a homophobic slur without adequate evidence.
In the lawsuit, Tennant, who says he has been the township’s only black officer during his tenure except for one other officer who was employed between 2006 and 2010, alleges there were four instances in which an employee of the department used a slur. In only one case was an employee disciplined. In 2010, a dispatcher was suspended for six months and ordered to undergo sensitivity training, the lawsuit states.
But in July 2011, Tennant received a written reprimand for allegedly using a homophobic slur. According to the suit, the employees who made the claim did not give any specifics on the incident.
Tennant filed a tort claim against the township in March 2011, two months before the investigation was launched, alleging the racial discrimination and indicating his intent to sue. It wasn’t until the tort notice was filed that the department made arrangements for sensitivity training, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states the department also wrongly investigated Tennant for disability checks he received while on medical leave. The lawsuit states he was cleared of those charges.
Tennant, who is represented by Linwood attorney Richard Stoloff, names the department as well as Chief Patrick Moran, Capt. Alan Kane and Cpl. Gerald Houck as defendants in the lawsuit.
Stoloff could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Moran, who is on medical leave due to recent shoulder surgery, issued a statement in which he characterizes the lawsuit as full of “half-truths, misleading information and inaccuracies.”
“Unfortunately, I am prohibited by law to discuss personnel-related issues/details, but I am prepared to defend against any and all allegations regarding our actions and any accusations levied upon the township during my administration,” he said. “I will also be pushing the township to counter with a frivolous lawsuit action against Tennant and his attorney and to push for the recovery of attorney’s fees for this entire matter.”
Liston said in the statement that the township is putting together a defense team and looks forward to its day in court.
“This litigation is garbage,” he said.
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