Atlanta, GA – The former Forest Park police chief filed a lawsuit against the city on Tuesday that accused officials of having fired him because he was white.
Former Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs filed his complaint in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta and alleged city officials had terminated him because they wanted to have a black police chief, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Lawyers for former Chief Hobbs, a 45-year veteran of the Forest Park police force, have declined to name which city council members they believe were involved in the ouster.
Attorney Lance LoRusso pointed out that the interim chief selected to replace then-Chief Hobbs was black, and so is the new permanent police chief, Nathanial Clark, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Forest Park is located nine miles south of Atlanta.
It has a population of 20,000 and most of the residents are black, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Clayton County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) spokesperson Cheryl Synamon Baldwin defended city officials and claimed that before Chief Hobbs was fired, she witnessed black residents of Forest Park being racially-profiled.
“It wasn’t that they wanted a Black police chief,” Baldwin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They wanted a police chief who was fair and honest.”
But former Chief Hobbs lawsuit claimed that eight other white employees have been terminated for the same reason, although they are not named in the complaint.
The former police chief was fired by a 3-2 vote of the Forest Park City Council in October of 2018.
The night he was terminated, Chief Hobbs was expecting the council to vote to approve a generous retirement package for him that would have included naming a firearms training facility after him, 24 months of severance pay, and a retirement party, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
His lawsuit against the city noted that the names have been changed on city buildings that were initially named after white people, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Councilmembers have denied Chief Hobbs’ firing had anything to do with race.
“We never said we wanted a Black chief,” Forest Park City Councilmember Latresa Akins-Wells told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a text message. “We did a national search so we didn’t know what color they would be. We just knew it was time for a change.”
After Chief Hobbs was fired, the city went on the offensive and launched an investigation into his running of the police department.
City leaders put out a press release in October of 2019 that said their investigation had determined that the Forest Park Police VIPER Squad had been following, monitoring, and photographing Akins-Wells and another councilmember, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The city said the since-disbanded VIPER Squad had been investigating suspicions of voter fraud and illegal drug activity by the elected officials.
Newly-installed Forest Park Police Chief Clark said the squad had turned up no evidence implicating the council members but that the investigation had raised some questions about police department finances, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The city asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to step in and figure out what was going on.
GBI turned its findings over to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office in May but thus far, no charges have been filed in connection with the investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for a status update by the newspaper.