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Regional News

Williamstown Denies Most Harassment, Racist Allegations In Police Officer's Complaint

Williamstown, Massachusetts Police Department
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Williamstown Police Department
Williamstown, Massachusetts Police Department

Williamstown, Massachusetts, officials have released their response to a complaint filed by a police officer last year with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The complaint alleged sexual harassment, racist behavior and retaliation.

Sergeant Scott McGowan has since withdrawn the complaint so he could file a civil rights lawsuit last month seeking $500,000 in damages against Williamstown, the town administrator and the police chief.

In a redacted response to the complaint, Williamstown, its town administrator and police chief denied many allegations, including one claiming the police chief had "Sexually Harassed McGowan And Others, And Retaliated Against McGowan for His Opposition to Harassment."

Police chief Kyle Johnson declined to comment for this story.

Williamstown did all but admit an incident occurred when the N-word was used by a police dispatcher, and said the employee was appropriately disciplined.

In his complaint, McGowan said he recommended the employee be terminated for racist behavior.

“Sergeant McGowan has a different opinion than the town apparently does about whether its appropriate to keep someone on the force who has used that kind of language on the job,” said David Russcol, McGowan's attorney.

The Williamstown Select Board also issued a statement saying it will "take steps to ensure" its policies do not “perpetuate unconscious or even intentional bias or discrimination,” including an audit of human resource practices in town government, hiring an independent consultant to review police department policies and providing workplace harassment and discrimination training programs to town employees.

The town has until mid-October to respond in court to the lawsuit. 

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