The Lower Merion Police Department is the target of legal action by one of its own, an African-American officer who claims he was passed over for a promotion because of his color.
Officer Kerry Godbold says he was passed over earlier this year by the force in his attempt to become a sergeant.
Godbold is not standing by himself. The NAACP says a discrimination complaint has been filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; a suit could soon follow.
“There are 135 police officers in the Lower Merion Police Department, [and] only three are African American,” said Jerry Mondesire, president of the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP. “No African American has ever been promoted to the upper ranks of the Lower Merion Police Department. We find that outrageous.”
Citing from the complaint, Mondesire said on March 31 a sergeant’s position opened up in the Lower Merion police force. Mondesire maintains that the department discriminated against Godbold when it did not pick him for the job.
Mondesire bemoaned the department’s history of not promoting African Americans.
“This is not right,” he said. “This is 2011. It is high time that the Lower Merion Police Department act according to the current conditions in our country.”
Mondesire said the complaint will take at least five months to go through the State Human Relations Commission. He expects that after that time the commission will give Godbold a right-to-sue letter, which will allow him to file suit against Lower Merion in the Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County.
Rather than hire Godbold, the township instead decided to expire the civil service position rather than fill it.
Meanwhile, Lower Merion Township hired its own attorney to investigate the claim. The township’s investigator determined that the township “did not discriminate” against Godbold in any way. The cost of the investigation was $12,400.