The police chief of a town in Maryland was just fired after he took huge steps at calling out and fighting racism within his department.
A crowd of supporters for the Pocomoke City chief gathered outside City Hall last week. They were demanding that their community’s first African American police chief be hired back.
Protesters held signs reading things like: “We Support Chief Kelvin Sewell.”
The demonstrators say that the chief was fired by the Pocomoke City Council on June 29th when he refused to fire two African American officers who had filed complaints against other officers for racist things they had done and said.
The Washington Post reported that the officers said the department was “a hostile work environment” due to racism. The chief saw no reason why the officers should be fired, so he refused. For sticking to the law and the department policies, the chief was himself fired.
The town dubs itself as the “Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore,” but angry protesters have been calling out the systemic racism of the city council.
The officers filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that said they faced racism that was “overt and rampant.”
One example they gave was “a food stamp superimposed with President Obama’s face that was left on a black detective’s desk and a text message that read, ‘What is ya body count n*gga?’”
Andrew G. McBride, co-counsel for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs said, “this is one of the most egregious cases of primary racial discrimination and retaliation for assertion of rights before the EEOC that I’ve seen.” He’s representing Sewell.
“Chief Sewell has a fantastic record as a police officer. He was terminated because he stood up for two African American officers who filed an EEOC complaint.”
One of the African American officers found a bloody deer tail on the windshield of his unmarked police car. When he went to his car, he saw a group of Caucasian police officers standing nearby laughing. It was obvious what happened.
“Each day I went to work, I felt hurt, ashamed and confused. Racism still exists,” Savage said. “And we took an oath to do the right thing each day.”
Pocomoke City Attorney William Hudson claims he cannot comment on the council’s decision to fire the chief.
The council has refused to offer any public explanation or statement about the termination. Hudson did say, however, “we deny there was impropriety whatsoever on the part of the city, the former city manager, as well as the mayor and the council.”
“You terminated a man who made a difference,” the Rev. James Jones, said at the protests.
He’s a pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. He presented the council with a petition that included 500 signatures demanding Sewell’s immediate reinstatement.
“My whole life, we have been treated as lower than Caucasians when it comes to getting jobs,” Kelli Cropper, 42, said. She’s a teacher in Pocomoke City, about a three-hours southeast of Washington.
“We want to know tonight, by whose authority was the chief fired?” the Rev. Ronnie White, pastor of House of Love Outreach Christian Center in Pocomoke City said.
George Tasker, a Caucasian city council member made things worse by coming out and saying to the crowd: “I’m just a mountain boy. I don’t know how to address y’all African American people.”
Afterward, resident Vanessa Jones, 56, said “Pocomoke City has always had a history of prejudice. It’s always been racial here, always. It’s supposed to be one of the friendliest towns on the Eastern Shore, and that is not true.”