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Sheriff to look into bias charges

Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice assured the department's minority employees Tuesday that he will review complaints of discrimination, but insisted no pattern of bias exists. His meeting with Minority Law Enforcement Personnel representatives was prompted by letters from Sgt. Lendel Bright, secretary of the organization.

An Oct. 19 letter to local media complained the department's minority employees do not receive the same discipline as white employees. An Oct. 17 letter to Rice also complained minority employees are passed over for promotions, intimidated by supervisors and excluded from day-to-day policy-making.

The Minority Law Enforcement Personnel board of directors neither knew the letters were being written nor approved them, said Cpl. Gary Wright, the group's president.

"We did not know, and I apologized to the sheriff for that," Wright said. "But the board agrees with the letters' contents. I'm not backing down from the contents. These letters show just how great the tension is.

"We have no problem with the sheriff himself. It's mid-management, and we wanted to make him aware of those situations. We've got a dialogue now so I think things will work out in the future."

Rice said after the meeting he wants the group to give details about instances of discrimination.

"There is absolutely no policy of discrimination or bias in the department," the sheriff said. "It would not be tolerated."

Bright cited five Internal Affairs cases in which he alleges minority employees received unequal disciplinary action. Those cases already have been reviewed repeatedly, Rice said.

"I'm not going to reverse any of those actions," he said.

According to sheriff's records, the cases involved:

Deputy Curtis Hook, fired in May 1988 for improperly searching two women. The Personnel Review Board decided three months later he should be reinstated with a 60-day suspension, six months' probation and remedial training.

Hooks was fired again in March 1989 for being absent from a training course and lying about it.

Deputy David L. Bright, fired in March 1988 for misconduct after arguing with another deputy at an accident scene. He was suspended in 1987 for three days for hitting his wife in a domestic dispute.

Rose Lumpkin, a corrections officer suspended in July 1989 for one day and given six months' probation for misconduct in a supply room at the Pinellas County Jail.

Another officer found corrections Sgt. Ben Williams and Lumpkin, whose pants were at her knees, standing face-to-face in the room. Lumpkin was wearing underwear, and no physical contact occurred, investigators determined. Williams was demoted to a corrections officer and received six months' probation.

Detective Calvin Dennie, suspended for one day last May for improperly handling his handgun and accidentally firing a shot in the narcotic operations bureau office. The bullet pierced two walls and stopped in a credenza.

Sgt. Kathy Hamilton-Scott, issued a written reprimand from her supervising lieutenant in August. The lieutenant determined Hamilton-Scott made improper and unprofessional statements to a woman who had been beaten and sexually attacked by her husband.

Hamilton-Scott has written a rebuttal, contending the investigation was conducted improperly. The case remains under review.