Attorneys for the city of Greenwood are attempting to move to federal court a lawsuit by a former Greenwood police officer claiming she was the victim of racial and gender discrimination by the police chief, mayor and City Council.

The lawsuit, filed in November by lawyers representing Tawana Friend, claims she was the target of discrimination by Police Chief Ray Moore, Mayor Carolyn McAdams and all members of the City Council. It indicates she also filed a complaint alleging discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The suit, which is one side of a legal argument, claims Friend, an African-American female, joined the force in May 2013 as a patrol officer and eventually worked as a SWAT team member. An unexplained “disciplinary action” against her resulted in her being removed and placed on probation in December 2017. When her probation ended, the suit claims, Moore refused to allow Friend back onto the SWAT team.

The suit claims Friend complained to McAdams in July 2017 that she, a black male patrol officer and a black male detective were receiving “disparate treatment” by Moore, who is white. The unnamed patrol officer and detective are not part of the lawsuit.

Phone calls to Moore and lawyers representing the city and Friend seeking comment on the suit and about removing it to federal court were not returned Friday.

The suit says Friend complained to the Human Resources Department that “no blacks were being promoted, but blacks were required to test for promotions while white employees were receiving promotions without having to take a test.”

Friend complained in November 2017, according to the suit, that a white male was promoted to lieutenant without having to go before the promotion board.

The suit claims that the assistant chief tried to move Friend to the position of juvenile officer but that Moore blocked the assignment.

The suit claims Moore investigated Friend’s personal life, surveiled her home, denied her a promotion, limited her assignments and told others he was punishing her for complaining about him to McAdams.

The lawsuit says Moore fired Friend in January 2018, only to have the Greenwood Civil Service Commission reinstate her.

“Friend’s working conditions were so egregious and adverse that she feared for safety and was compelled to resign” in June, 2018, the suit claims.

Friend is seeking reinstatement to her position, or payment in lieu of reinstatement, back pay, lost benefits and other losses caused by the defendants. She also wants compensatory damages, cost of the suit including her attorney’s fees, and injunctive relief to stop the defendants “from continuing to discriminate on the basis of race and gender.”

The suit was initially filed in Leflore County Circuit Court. Attorneys Jason R. Marsh and G. Todd Butler of Phelps Dunbar LLP in Jackson, filed last week to move it to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Greenville. Attorneys for Friend, Everett T. Sanders and Neysha Sanders of The Sanders Law Firm PLLC, have not filed to contest the removal.   

•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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