Fired Officers Sue Town, Chief, Manager: They Claim Rights Violated Trying To Disclose Corruption

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

By Mike Barnhardt
Enterprise Record

The three police officers fired from the Mocksville Police Department in December fired back last week.
Claiming their First Amendment rights to free speech were violated, they filed a lawsuit in federal court centered on what they say is corruption in the department, specifically naming Police Chief Robert Cook, Town Manager Christine Bralley and Assistant Police Chief Daniel Matthews.
They were fired, they said, when they tried to initiate a state investigation into the corruption, which they say included racism, favoritism, drinking on the job, and “fixing” tickets for friends.
“Because the plaintiffs spoke out against such practices, they have lost their jobs and have been subjected to severe damages to their reputations and careers,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiffs have been deprived of their rights to free speech and other rights guaranteed by the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.”
They are asking for a jury trial, their jobs back and more than $100,000 each in damages.
Hunter, who was hired in 1985, was for most of his time the only African-American on the police force. He said that Cook told him that during promotions in 2008, Matthews was also being named assistant chief “because the town board would not permit him to appoint a single assistant chief who was African-American.”
Cook, who is not a certified sworn law enforcement officer, maintained a corrupt office, they said, “characterized by unlawfulness, dishonesty, self-dealing, abuse of power, racism, favoritism, and other misconduct detrimental and destructive to its (police department) mission.”
The lawsuit claims that other officers and the community knew of the corruption, which they say included:
• Cook impersonating a sworn officer by operating a police vehicle with blue lights and siren, making traffic stops and detaining individuals for arrest;
• Cook openly displaying and consuming alcohol while in uniform and armed with a weapon;
• Cook misappropriating funds from the drug forfeiture account and the law enforcement association for his and others’ personal benefit;
• double dipping by Matthews by teaching classes for pay by another group while being paid as a Mocksville officer;
• Cook violating labor laws regarding overtime and falsifying timesheets;
• Cook engaging in racial discrimination against Hunter and the only other African-American officer, including and allowing racial epithets; and …