An African-American Baltimore County police sergeant claims in a federal lawsuit that he faced threats and discrimination after reporting that two white officers used excessive force and made an unlawful arrest.
Sgt. Randy Williams, who worked in Woodlawn before being transferred last spring to Cockeysville, claims his superiors routinely treated him differently from other equally ranked officers who were white.
The allegations are the latest against a department that has struggled with diversity in its ranks. The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing an investigation into the county's low number of minority hires in the Police and Fire departments.
Williams' attorney, Cary J. Hansel III, said the suit is "an attempt to correct a global problem in the department."
"You have a department that has too long let race be a motivating factor with how they treat the public and how they treat their own," Hansel said.
County attorney Michael E. Field said the county has not been formally served and declined to comment on the suit.
In the complaint filed Nov. 15, Williams said two white officers were conducting a traffic stop in May when another man walked up to the car, laughed and walked away.
The complaint says the officers followed him, "confronted him, punched him, struck him with their knees and used [pepper] spray on him." The man was hospitalized, then charged with assault.
Officers said they stopped the man because he had been "laughing erratically," says the suit, which does not identify that man.
Before the man went to the hospital, Williams went to the scene to question him, according to the suit. He told Williams he had mental health problems.
Williams said in the complaint that the officers had no reason to stop the man and charge him with assault, and he submitted a formal complaint to his superiors.
Another officer, who is also black, made a complaint against the white officers regarding the same incident, the complaint said.
Williams said he later met with other officers, including a white lieutenant who told Williams he hadn't read his complaint against the two white officers. He also said the lieutenant failed to properly submit the statements to superiors until Williams made a complaint to his captain.
After the meeting, Williams said, he was reassigned from Woodlawn to Cockeysville, and as a result of the incident and other acts of discrimination, he took medical leave, citing mental and emotional distress from the incidents.