Law & Justice

Franklin Township: Police Sergeant Alleges Discrimination

SOMERSET, NJ - The Township of Franklin is facing a discrimination lawsuit that targets three of the borough's top officials, according to court documents. 

Sgt. Dennis Hopson filed the complaint against the Township of Franklin, Chief of Police Lawrence W. Roberts, Deputy Chief Richard Grammar and Township Manager Robert G. Vornlocker, according to the filing. 

The complaint, which was filed May 31 in state Superior Court, Middlesex County, alleges that in the last 20 years, the Franklin Township Police Department overwhelmingly hired Caucasian police officers over minority police officers.

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"Since 2007 the FTPD has hired only three African American officers as opposed to twenty-nine Caucasian and one Hispanic," the complaint alleges. "In the entire history of the FTPD, it has only hired one Indian officer."

In the last 20 years, the only African American police officer to reach the rank of Lieutenant was Lt. Edward Coleman, who retired in 1998, according to the complaint. The complaint also states no other African American officer has reached a rank higher than Sergeant. 

"In an effort to sway the promotion of police officers away from minority officers, the FTPD has intentionally ignored the two most important components to considered in the promotion of officers, seniority, and education, in favor of subjective evaluations such as oral interviews," the complaint alleges. 

Below is a list of the components and the weight each component has in relation to promotion to the rank of Sgt. and Lt., according to Township Ordinance 50-11. 

Component

Weight

Seniority

1

Education

2

Written Examination

3

Promotional Evaluation

4

Medical Evaluation

NA; pass/fail

Psychological Screening (if required)

NA; pass/fail

If a resident and non-resident have equal scores, the resident will be appointed, according to the ordinance.

Promotional evaluation has the most weight in the promotional process and consists of a review of the candidate's personnel file, including but not limited to job evaluations, disciplinary record, commendations, and attendance, according to ordinance 50-11. An oral interview conducted by the township manager and their designees is also part of the promotional evaluation process. 

The complaint also states, "over his two decades of employment, Sgt. Hopson has submitted countless written communications to his superiors expressing an interest in different units at the department." 

According to the complaint, Hopson attempted to secure assignments and promotional opportunities on the Somerset County Emergency Response Team, The Crime Suppression Unit, and the Command and Leadership School, which according to the complaint prepares Sergeants for the rank of Lieutenant. 

Hopson states he was told he could not be appointed to the Crime Suppression Unit due to his lack of Detective Bureau experience. However, according to the complaint, three officers that did not have the same experience were appointed to comparable positions. 

"Also, no other African American Sergeants have ever been sent to Command and Leadership School (including five current African American Sergeants), which aids in the promotion of officers to the rank of Lieutenant," the complaint alleges. 

The township attorney Lous N. Rainone stated he cannot comment on this matter, because it is ongoing litigation, and that the complaint was sent to the Township's insurance carrier who will be defending the matter. 

Hopson's attorney did not return phone calls made by TAPinto Franklin Township, and Hopson could not be reached for comment. 

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