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Williamstown, Mass., Police Sergeant Files Civil Rights Lawsuit

Williamstown, Massachusetts Police Department
Williamstown Police Department

A Williamstown, Massachusetts, police officer has filed a $500,000 civil rights employment lawsuit in federal court against the town, its chief of police and town manager. 

The suit alleges retaliation against Sergeant Scott McGowan because he opposed sexual harassment, as well as racial discrimination.

The complaint cites an incident where a dispatcher allegedly shouted a racial epithet inside the station. In addition, according to the complaint, for a period of time one officer had a picture of Adolf Hitler in his locker, visible to other officers.

The complaint also charges that Police Chief Kyle Johnson sexually assaulted and harassed McGowan and others in the department. 

In an email, Johnson said he cannot comment on the case.

McGowan's attorney, David Russcol, said the sergeant's duties were reduced and he was unfairly passed over for a promotion.

“Some of the claims in the case are based on retaliation for speaking up on issues related to sexual harassment and racial harassment within the department,” Russcol said.

McGowan has worked for the department since 2002. According to the complaint, he investigates crimes “including rape, indecent assault and battery, and sex crimes against children.”

The complaint also states that McGowan is a survivor of sexual assault.

According to Russcol, the town has about 60 days to respond to the complaint.

The Williamstown Board of Selectmen issued a statement on Tuesday.

“The town is committed to getting to the bottom of the allegations as quickly as possible and being as transparent as possible,” the chair of the board, Jane Patton, said in an interview.

Patton said in a few days the town will release its analysis of previous complaints brought by McGowan with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

At McGowan's request, according to his lawyer, the commission dismissed the charges to allow him to file the case in court.

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