Until 2010, Sergeant Delbert Johnson had a great career at the Fort Worth Police Department. He joined the force in 1990 and had worked his way up to sergeant by 2000. In 2005 he was transferred to the department's day shift traffic division, giving a regular schedule that allowed him to work a second job and spend time with his family.
Things began to change, Johnson says in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, in 2010. That year, he and another officer, James Dunn, saw a photo printed at the traffic division showing one of their fellow officers, Sergeant Ann Gates, holding a noose around a snowman's neck. A complaint was submitted to internal affairs and Gates and the sergeant who took the photo, Mike Cagle, were admonished by the department.
Johnson says that he was retaliated against following the admonishments. He was publicly criticized to superiors, had meetings and projects he was overseeing boycotted and was accused of stealing federal grant money by another supervisor in the traffic division, Sergeant David Stamp. Johnson was cleared of the theft, but says Stamp told others in the department the only reason Johnson wasn't arrested is because Johnson was black.
Eventually, Johnson complained to FWPD human resources department and was given a meeting with Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead after a 37-day wait. Johnson says Halstead promised him he would "make things right" but then did just the opposite.
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Halstead transferred Johnson from the traffic division and off the day shift. He was forced to quit his second job and spend less time with his family. He was also no longer given the overtime shifts he previously worked. He was denied a transfer to an open position at the city jail, allegedly on Halstead's orders.
Because of similar complaints of harassment and retaliation by other black officers, the department investigated and released what is known as the Coleman Report earlier this year. The report validated the officers' claims of discrimination, and Halstead publicly admitted Johnson suffered race-based discrimination.
Johnson is suing Halstead, Stamp and the city of Fort Worth in federal court for violating his civil rights.
The Fort Worth Police Department declined to comment on the suit.