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Police & Fire

Black Hartford Police Lieutenant Accuses Department Of Racism; Sues City, Chief, Others

Hartford Police Lt. Paul West, shown here completing a law enforcement administration program at a Kentucky university, has sued the Hartford Police Department alleging discrimination.
Hartford Police Lt. Paul West, shown here completing a law enforcement administration program at a Kentucky university, has sued the Hartford Police Department alleging discrimination. Photo Credit: louisville.edu

A black Hartford Police lieutenant is suing the City of Hartford, Chief of Police, and other city law enforcement officials accusing them of racism and bigotry.

On Aug. 19, Hartford Police Lieutenant Paul West, an 18-year police veteran, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city, Police Chief Jason Thody, Assistant Chief Rafael Medina, Deputy Chief Sonia Watson, Deputy Chief Dustin Rendock, Captain Ian Powell, and Lieutenant Kevin O’Brien.

The lawsuit claims that starting in 2018, West’s grievances about the harassment he and other officers had faced within the department were met with retaliation and “racial animus,” according to court documents. West says he was never on a “level playing field” again in his career.

West is seeking an undetermined amount in monetary damages for retaliation, discrimination, and the creation of a hostile work environment, according to the complaint. 

West joined the Hartford Police Department in 2002. He is still a member of the city’s police force.

The lawsuit says things started to go downhill in May 2018, when West says he witnessed a male Hartford police officer “demean and sexually harass” a female officer at a recruiting event in Bridgeport. Subsequent reporting of the incident by West to police officials led to him being chastised and threatened, court documents said.

This is not how the Hartford Police say the incident went down.

An internal police investigation into the sexual harassment incident was concluded in 2019. Hartford Police determined the harassment did happen and that West failed to report it to superiors and stop the offending officer from harassing his female colleague.

However, the female officer at the center of the incident said that West was the only one in the department that had tried to help her.

The lawsuit outlines other allegations and grievances including denied promotions, being harassed for seeking personal emergency leave, and an old investigation was reopened against West in an effort to manipulate the officer, the complaint stated.

A response from the city will be added to this story as soon as it becomes available.

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