A police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the Fort Smith Police Department, alleging racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation and has requested a jury trial.

A police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the Fort Smith Police Department, alleging racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation and has requested a jury trial.


Filed in U.S. District Court of the Western District of Arkansas by Little Rock attorney Matthew D. Campbell, on behalf of Cpl. Wendall N. Sampson Jr., the 27-page discrimination lawsuit alleges that Sampson was harassed, discriminated and retaliated against because of his race.


Sampson, an African-American, has been a police officer with Fort Smith police since being hired as a probationary officer on Sept. 25, 1995.


At the time of his hiring, Sampson was the 10th African-American police officer hired in the history of the department, according to the lawsuit.


The lawsuit claims the department has not hired an African-American police officer since 1995, despite multiple African-American candidates’ applying and meeting necessary qualifications, and has not promoted a black police officer since 1988. It also alleges that Sampson has been retaliated against and denied promotion with higher pay.


Over the course of his employment with the department, Sampson served as a patrol officer and a detective, and he has worked in community relations, as an airport liaison and as assistant radio room supervisor.


The lawsuit claims Sampson was demoted from his position as assistant radio room supervisor in January to an information desk officer, which "does not have the same benefits as his previous position and has historically been seen as a position assigned to ‘problem officers.’"


The lawsuit claims that Sampson has been "subjected to racial comments and jokes" from both his supervisors and other officers during the course of his tenure, "all of which has occurred without any reprisal" for those supervisors and officers.


The lawsuit states that despite Sampson’s handling the same responsibilities and duties as a sergeant in the position of assistant radio room supervisor, and despite the department’s policy specifically naming that position as one where an officer who holds the position may be given an increased level of pay, and despite white officers being in specialized pay positions, Sampson was never provided the opportunity to receive a pay increase.


The lawsuit claims that Sampson has been the target of 11 internal investigations or administrative inquiries since July 2013, from accusations of sexual harassment to waste of public funds, all of which were found to be baseless, "with the exception of two minor alleged infractions," including a 10-day suspension that was later reduced to counseling.


Sampson has filed a number of complaints against the department alleging racial discrimination.


The lawsuit states that in February 2014, Sampson was denied a promotion to sergeant, when the city of Fort Smith "disingenuously" told a representative from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that they could not promote him, as he was too far down a list of eligible candidates, when it could have promoted Sampson.


Sampson, along with other fellow and former police officers, filed a Whistle Blower case against the city, claiming the officers were retaliated against with "a variety of baseless claims" for communicating to Police Chief Kevin Lindsey suspected violations of policy and law related to the termination of another officer. The complaint also alleged Sampson was additionally targeted for communicating suspected overtime irregularities in the dispatch center. The case was dismissed by a Sebastian County circuit judge in July.


The lawsuit states that Sampson on multiple occasions has applied and has been qualified for promotions when the city was seeking applicants, but was rejected for the positions.


The lawsuit has requested a jury trial to seek appropriate compensatory and punitive damages and for the city to remove all adverse information from his employment file.


Lindsey had no comment on the matter when reached by phone on Tuesday.