Lawsuit: Racism, talk of Trump-inspired ‘fence’ at Mt. Healthy police department
A federal lawsuit filed this week alleging a culture of racism within Mount Healthy’s police department is the third in recent years involving one of its African-American officers.
The previous two lawsuits, filed in 2016 and 2017, involved part-time officers. The newest lawsuit was filed by a current full-time officer, Paul Scott, who documents say was the first African-American hired by the small department.
The lawsuit includes allegations that Police Chief Vince Demasi talked with officers about “Demasi’s fence.” The fence was being put up, the lawsuit says, to stop residents of a predominantly African-American apartment complex in Springfield Township from walking through an area that separates the complex from a Mount Healthy shopping center.
During that March 2016 discussion, according to the lawsuit, officers talked about building a wall between the communities – after first discussing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposed wall at the Mexican border.
“The conversation became even more offensive and racist,” the lawsuit says. An officer suggested they build a moat, where the apartment complex’s residents would “drop into and drown.”
According to the lawsuit, someone then suggested a sign that warned of prosecution:
“Officers said they would need to define the word ‘prosecution,’ implying the African-American residents were not intelligent enough to read or comprehend the sign.”
A day later, on March 18, 2016, Officer Scott filed a complaint with his supervisor about the discussion surrounding the fence.
The lawsuit says Scott complained that Demasi “encouraged the conversation.”
Mount Healthy City Manager Bill Kocher declined to comment. Demasi said he could not talk about pending litigation.
Demasi did say his department does not “condone, accept or allow any type of racial activity to occur.”
He said an outside law firm was hired by the city to investigate Scott’s allegations.
“They found no evidence of any racial discrimination or any issues,” Demasi said.