11/15/2000

Officers sue Pennsylvania
township, alleging racism

(WARWICK TOWNSHIP, Pa.) -- A federal lawsuit filed by several police officers alleges Warwick Township refused to hire an officer because he is black.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by Ronald Simril, a part-time police officer in Oxford Borough, Chester County; Alfred Olsen, Warwick police chief; and Olsen's brother-in-law, Gary Hutchinson, a Warwick Township police sergeant.

The plaintiffs allege that several people twice prevented Simril from being hired as a full-time officer for Warwick Township, even though, according to the plaintiffs, he was the most qualified. The defendants are also accused in the lawsuit of creating a hostile work environment for Olsen and Hutchinson when the two men supported Simril's hiring.

The defendants in the lawsuit include Warwick Township and Ephrata Borough; Warwick officials Bruce Bucher, W. Logan Myers, Daniel Zimmerman, Michael Vigunas, J. Roger Moyer Jr., Daniel Garrett and Crawford Kauffman; Warwick Township police officers Edward Tobin, Richard Rhinier, Gary Garrison, Brenda Gensemer, Joshua Kilgore, Delene Brown and Michael Burdge; and Ephrata Borough police officer Robert Ballenger.

Also named as a defendant is Matthew Hunt, a consultant who has done work for Warwick Township.

Hunt, of Harrisburg, said he was hired in March to analyze the Warwick Police Department's operations. He completed his report in July and submitted it to township officials.

Michelangelo Dippolito, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the suit was filed after Simril unsuccessfully applied for a job on two occasions -- first in December 1999, and again in August 2000.

"There are certain phases to the hiring process in Warwick Township," Dippolito said. "Simril went through each phase and had the highest score."

"He didn't get the job," Dippolito continued, "and there is blatant evidence he didn't get it because he's black."

Dippolito said much of the evidence of the charges is in the form of "verbal communications."

He said the township's policies were in accordance with the Equal Opportunity Commission guidelines, but he said the defendants all had a part in subverting the hiring policies.

Dippolito said that when Olsen and Hutchinson continued to support the hiring of Simril, the defendants created a "hostile work environment and undermined the chief of police's authority and turned everyone against the chief of police."

Olsen said Simril was the best candidate for the job but wasn't given the job because of his race.

Olsen said the lawsuit was motivated by a "sense of right, a sense of justice."

He said in his 12 years with Warwick Township, no black police officer has ever been hired. Olsen said he believes the township has never employed a black officer.

Olsen didn't say whether Hunt's recommendations had any direct connection to the lawsuit.

Township manager Daniel Zimmerman declined to come to the telephone to answer any questions today. His secretary said he instructed her to tell reporters he had no comment.

Hunt declined to reveal the findings or recommendations of his report, but he said his analysis dealt with issues such as schedules, overtime, the chief's duties and officers' duties.

Hunt said he did not know why he was named in the suit. He said he has never met Ronald Simril.

Ephrata police Officer Ballenger was named in the suit, Dippolito said, because he was on the panel for Simril's final interviews.

(iSyndicate; Lancaster New Era; Nov. 10, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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