Red Bank police officer files age bias lawsuit

Red Bank police officer files age bias lawsuit

November 11th, 2011 by Naomi Jagoda in News

Former Red Bank Police Chief Larry Sneed

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

A Red Bank police officer filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday claiming that he was penalized and demoted because of his age and for speaking out against former police Chief Larry Sneed's activities during the City Commission's 2010 investigation.

Stephen Satterwhite, who is over 40, is suing the city of Red Bank, Police Chief Tim Christol and Lt. Jay Lamance. He is seeking monetary damages, but his attorney, Donna Mikel, said there is no specific amount yet.

Red Bank Attorney Arnold Stulce declined to comment because he had just received the complaint. Christol and Lamance could not be reached for comment Thursday after business hours.

In 2010, several officers initiated an investigation with the Red Bank City Commission relating to Sneed, according to the complaint. During the investigation, Satterwhite told commissioners about unlawful activities of the police department and Sneed relating to a DUI arrest undertaken by an officer who Satterwhite supervised, according to the complaint.

Satterwhite told the commission that Sneed participated in the destruction or alteration of official documents, according to the complaint.

Following Sneed's termination, Satterwhite reported to Lamance, who was a close friend of Sneed and "who began nitpicking his performance," according to the complaint.

In February 2011, Satterwhite received a one-day suspension because of "public comments" he allegedly made about the police department, though the police department refused to specify what those comments were, according to the complaint. At that time he also was assigned to a different shift, was required to undergo additional training and was put on probation for 60 days, according to the complaint.

He received favorable evaluations during his probation, according to the complaint, and he had a clean employment record prior to his communications during the investigation.

At the end of July 2011, Satterwhite received a letter claiming he was making "public statements about the [police department]" and was demoted from a sergeant to a patrol officer. He also was informed that he was demoted because he was allegedly talking bad about other officers, the complaint said.

Satterwhite also said in the complaint that he had heard age-biased comments within the police department. During the investigation about Sneed, Satterwhite told city commissioners about these types of comments.

After he was demoted several new, young officers were hired and immediately promoted into supervisor positions, according to the complaint.