CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) – The assistant police chief of Hempstead claims he was forced to resign and slapped with bogus criminal charges after he told the press that the county tolerated the posting of “Coon” cartoons and a noose being hung at the precinct.
In his federal complaint, Willie Dixon says he was the highest-ranking minority officer in Nassau and Suffolk Counties when Hempstead’s mayor and police chief and the Nassau County district attorney tried to charge him with burglary, abuse of power and sexual harassment after he called attention to racist incidents at the local precinct.
In his 32-page complaint, Dixon claims that Nassau County’s police academy “systematically” causes minority applicants to quit or fail at higher rates than Caucasian recruits, and that Hempstead in particular maintains workplace rules similar to Jim Crow laws meant to keep minority police officers “in line.”
Dixon claims that the conspiracy to marginalize him and other minority officers included the mayor, police chief, Police Benevolent Association president and district attorney.
The village and county ‘have a long history of performing flawed and unfair internal investigations of minority police officers,” Dixon claims.
On Jan. 22, 2005, the Village of Hempstead charged Dixon with “conduct unbecoming of a police officer” for allegedly allowing employees to watch the Playboy channel inside the stationhouse, according to the complaint.
But Dixon says that rule was enforced only against him, the only black night watch commander, not against any of the white watch commanders at the post.
Dixon adds “that the Playboy Channel was installed and paid for by Defendant PBA [Police Benevolent Association] viewable on cable boxes located in the male locker room, desk area and detective division for years.” And, he says, the village never disciplined anyone connected with the PBA for it.
The village also protected a white officer who broke the law while maliciously prosecuting a black civilian, Dixon says.
On May 10, 2006, “former Police Officer now Detective” Dean Nicosia perjured himself before a grand jury in the case of an African-American man facing a class-D felony charge, the complaint says.
After the alleged perjury was discovered, Dixon say, Police Chief Joseph B. Wing said, “Nicosia realized that he made a mistake. Therefore, he feels that he should not lose his job.”
Dixon says the police chief started a campaign to intimidate him after he went public about discovering a noose in 2007.
In June 2008, Dixon says, he received an anonymous letter calling him a “head case.” That fall, he says, he learned that PBA officials advised members to file workplace grievances that they hoped “will kill him.”
In December 2008, Chief Wing “asked” him to persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to call off the noose investigation to boost morale, Dixon says. He says he refused to do it, after which the harassment intensified.
On New Year’s Eve of 2008, Dixon says, two investigators from District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office started investigating an incident in which he complained about a neighbor’s dog posing a “health hazard,” seeking evidence that Dixon burglarized the apartment to get rid of the pet.
In early 2009, Wing allegedly asked two female officers if they had a “‘problem’ with him, meaning sexual harassment,” the complaint states.
Dixon claims, “they both responded ‘No!'”
A month later, Dixon says, the DA’s investigators seized 5 years of business documents from several tow companies to try to show that he steered towing business to another African-American official, Hempstead Trustee Perry Pettus.
As a result of this investigation, which alleged “burglary” and “abuse of power,” Chief Wing ordered that Dixon work “solely on the accreditation process,” and not on day-to-day operations, according to the complaint.
After Dixon questioned the validity of the DA’s investigation in an open board meeting, he claims, Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. told Trustee Pettus, “Fuck Bill. Who the fuck is Bill? Who does he think he is? … The chief can do what the fuck he wants to Bill.”
Dixon claims that former Police Chief Thomas Scott, the first and only police chief of color, “was marginalized in the same manner.”
Dixon demands punitive damages from Hempstead and Nassau County, and their officials, alleging discrimination, retaliation, conspiracy and hostile work environment.
He is represented by Eric Sanders with Jeffrey L. Goldberg’s office, of Lake Success, N.Y.