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Former Pocomoke police chief who accused town of racism indicted

Kelvin Sewell, a former Baltimore police officer and police chief in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore.
Kelvin Sewell, a former Baltimore police officer and police chief in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore. (Jed Kirschbaum / Baltimore Sun)

The former Eastern Shore police chief who accused Pocomoke City of racism after he was fired without a public explanation was indicted Tuesday on charges of misconduct in office.

Kelvin Sewell, 53, a retired Baltimore homicide detective who now works for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, was indicted Tuesday by a Worcester County grand jury, court records show.

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Sewell and police Lt. Lynell Green were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit misconduct in office and misconduct in office, according to State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt.

The indictments stem from a November 2014 incident in which prosecutors allege that Sewell and Green interfered with the investigation of a car crash to benefit Douglas Matthews, a local corrections officer.

"Police officers take an oath to uphold the laws of the state without partiality or prejudice," Davitt said in a statement. "Any disregard of that oath should never be tolerated."

The Pocomoke City Council fired Sewell in 2015 with no public explanation. The dismissal divided the town of 4,000. Sewell, Pocomoke City's first black police chief, alleged that he was fired in retribution for defending two black officers who had complained about racism.

Sewell and the officers are suing city and county officials in federal court, alleging racial discrimination. They have been aided by the ACLU of Maryland.

Sewell could not immediately be reached for comment. Matthews said he believed the charges against Sewell are "bogus."

Matthews said he fell asleep while driving and was involved in a crash. He said he called police to report the accident and never asked for special favors. He said he does not consider himself a friend of Sewell's.

"I think everything was handled correctly," Matthews said. "I got in a car accident, called the police. They investigated and no charges were filed."

Pocomoke City Manager Ernest Crofoot declined to comment on the circumstances of Sewell's dismissal or the allegations in the indictment, citing Sewell's pending lawsuit and discrimination complaints. Mayor Bruce Morrison did not respond to a request for comment.

Sewell's arraignment is set for next month.

In their lawsuit, Sewell and the officers allege broad racial harassment in the town.

Sewell said he stood up for employees who had reported a racially hostile work environment, including officers watching "racially charged" videos in their presence and regularly using racial epithets.

The Maryland attorney general's office, which is representing the city and county in the suit, has called the lawsuit an "absurd, meritless" complaint and an "attempt to extract some sort of undeserved windfall payout."

In a separate complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sewell alleged that he was paid less than his white predecessor. EEOC investigators determined they had "reasonable cause to believe that [Sewell] was discharged in retaliation for protected activity."

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Sewell is seeking reinstatement, back pay and damages.

Sewell was hired by the Baltimore state's attorney's office in March as a contract employee to investigate felony, homicide and violent crime cases, and to help locate and interview witnesses.

Sewell spent more than 20 years with the Baltimore Police Department before retiring as a sergeant in 2010. His departure followed racially charged allegations that a supervisor had ordered him to view a Ku Klux Klan website after insisting that the group was active in Sewell's home county.

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