A former narcotics officer is suing the Horry County Police Department, asserting the agency discriminated against him because he is a black Muslim.
Daryl Williams, who worked for the department for more than nine years, made three requests to transfer from the patrol division to narcotics, according to the lawsuit, which was moved to federal court this week. Each time, Williams contends, he was passed over for less qualified white, male applicants. That changed when his concerns reached Chief Saundra Rhodes, a black woman, who approved his promotion in June 2014 "over the objections of the Narcotics department," the lawsuit states. But Williams resigned two months later because he faced harassment and discrimination there, according to court filings.
Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier declined to discuss the case, saying the county doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
In court filings, the county has denied Williams’ allegations and asked that the court dismiss the case. The county did, however, confirm that Williams was placed in the narcotics division in June 2014 — two months after the officer was notified that he was being investigated by internal affairs. The nature of that investigation is not outlined in court records, other than Williams’ contention that it stemmed from an anonymous complaint. Williams said in his lawsuit that the police chief told him to disregard the matter because she hadn’t heard of the investigation.
The lawsuit also states that Williams " was immediately informed when he entered the Narcotics division that he was not wanted there and that he could leave at any time."
Williams reported that he was being harassed because of his race and religion in July, and he insists Rhodes told him the situation would improve, according to the lawsuit.
On the day his employment ended, Williams claims he was to be demoted and disciplined "for pretextual reasons," according to the lawsuit. After leaving Rhodes’ office, he was locked out of the narcotics department and couldn’t retrieve personal belongings, the lawsuit states.
On Nov. 6, Williams lodged a discrimination charge against the department with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Williams claims he was an exemplary employee who was once recommended for Officer of the Month, but was treated differently because of his race and faith.
"During my employment I consistently complained regarding racist and religious commentary that was degrading," he said in court papers. Williams contends no one was ever disciplined for those remarks.
The EEOC investigated the matter, but the commission was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes," according to public documents.
Williams’ right to sue was issued by EEOC on Jan. 30.
The lawsuit was originally filed in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas on April 23, but transferred to federal court Tuesday.
Williams claims he suffered lost wages and benefits as well as emotional damage. He seeks an unspecified amount of damages as well as legal fees.
The former officer’s lawyer, Bonnie Travaglio Hunt of Goose Creek, could not immediately be reached Friday.
Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.