To the editor,
The letter I wrote in last week’s Independent is very clear why I am now breaking my silence about Sumpter Township PD. I think readers whether from Sumpter Township or around the area can understand what prompted me to speak out. Just to be clear though, the reason I knew I had to speak out is because I took the firing of my job very serious. I deserved a second change just as Ofc. Salajan got. I have done many, many good things as a police officer within the department and throughout the community was clearly nothing Chief Luke would even consider. But how can anyone (me) not speak up when you see how another officer not lose his job and was treated quite differently. For me, this was my final confirmation just how much Chief Luke despised me working as a police officer in Sumpter Township.
I mentioned in my last letter that there has been a long negative history between Chief Luke and I and everyone at the department knew this, too. The sad thing is that when you spend your career trying to be accepted by mainly one person and realizing no matter what you do or how well you did it, this wasn’t going to happen.
The years of this treatment finally took its toll in October 2016 while our union was experiencing issues with a 5+ year expired contract and a change of the executive board members (me becoming union president). I believed I was experiencing workplace harassment and retaliation. I expressed this to Lt. Gannon through an email and was advised by him to complete a written statement of names, dates, times, as the department takes this seriously. I submitted a handwritten 10-13-page statement which included names, dates, times etc. This came only months after Supervisor John Morgan mandated all township employees to attend a harassment seminar held by the township in May 2016.
Chief Luke, Lt. Gannon and I met to discuss my statement/complaint. After Chief Luke went through my statement, I was told that these were all union issues and as Chief of Police, he could not get involved in union business. I stressed to Luke both verbally and in my written statement that not all the occurrences took place in union meetings and spilled into the workplace and even the courtroom.
Chief Luke disagreed, again stating that he, as Chief of Police cannot get involved in union business. He did not speak to any of the other officers that witnessed some of this happening and to my knowledge was not investigated. I cannot begin to explain how I felt or what I was going through mentally and emotionally by this time. What now?
It has been a known fact around the police department that we as officers were looked upon very badly if anyone went “across the street” (township hall) for any help. At that point I had enough and exhausted any of hope of anything getting better so I spoke to Peggy Morgan briefly who referred me to Trustee Don Swinson. Peggy Morgan advised me that she did not want to get accused of being “friends” with me (even though we were never actually friends and hung out, more of a professional working relationship) and it would be better if I spoke with Trustee Don Swinson. I contacted Don Swinson and had a phone conversation with him. We met outside the township where I spent approximately two hours explaining just about everything going on at the police department. After our meeting I ended up going to Trustee Don LaPorte who was/is the police department’s police liaison.
Don LaPorte and I had many conversations in person and on the phone where I disclosed many of the improprieties within the department. Trustee Don LaPorte stated that Chief Luke questioned him if he had been “talking” to me. Don LaPorte assured me that he did not let Luke know about our conversations. LaPorte advised me that none of this type of behavior would be tolerated or allowed from anyone who worked for the township.
LaPorte arranged a meeting with Supervisor John Morgan. This meeting took place in December 2016 in Supervisor John Morgan’s office. I advised Supervisor Morgan of my harassment complaint at the PD and many other issues. I expressed my concerns and fear of retaliation to John Morgan and Don LaPorte numerous times throughout our meeting just by me coming to them. Supervisor Morgan advised me that he would have to do his due diligence and speak to all involved. He also advised me that he would have another meeting with all of us present to resolve any issues. I agreed but again expressed my concerns. I was reassured by both Trustee Don LaPorte and Supervisor Morgan that everything would be ok and Morgan stated he would be back in touch in a few days.
Days, weeks then more than a month went by and I did not hear back from either one. Another few weeks went by (now February 2017) when I ran into Don LaPorte in the parking lot at Willis Market. We discussed when the next union negotiation meeting may take place and then I asked Don LaPorte why he or Supervisor Morgan had not gotten back with me. I had been on pins and needles stressing out for over a month not knowing if Luke or anyone else had been contacted yet.
Don LaPorte apologized to me stating that he spoke to John Morgan twice saying that he felt they owed me at least a conversation. Don LaPorte stated that Supervisor Morgan told him that he was not going to address the issue with Luke or any of the others “out of fear” I “would have more hell to pay”. I cannot begin to explain how I felt at this point. How would anyone feel? Did I actually believe anything would get resolved at this point? How do so many people knowingly ignore anyone in this type of situation? How could the very people both at the PD and township hall turn their cheek to anyone who is seeking help? Was the mandated harassment seminar just to make certain people look good? Did all this get swept under the rug to avoid the PD or Township Hall having to get an “outside” agency to investigate? Isn’t it the Township’s responsibility to oversee the police department rather then the other way around?
If a citizen came into the police department with a harassment complaint with names, dates, times and witnesses I know it would have been investigated and some type of resolution would have been sought. For any newer officers and township employees who were not around for any of this I am sure it’s hard to believe. It’s true and I have my documents to support it. In order for anyone outside the police department to understand just how much and how long I have been experiencing this type of work environment, I will share and share until I have shared it all.
It took me doing something way out of my character and getting fired to remove myself from a toxic work environment that I had been experiencing for many years that no one deserves! These two letters to the Independent only scratch the surface of what has gone on.
Former Sumpter Township Police Officer