EXCLUSIVE: Lithonia police chief accused of creating ‘hostile work environment’

Lithonia Police Chief Roosevelt Smith is sworn in by Judge Curtis Miller.
Lithonia Police Chief Roosevelt Smith is sworn in by Judge Curtis Miller in 2014.

In the 15 months Roosevelt Smith has been chief of police of Lithonia, he has created a hostile work environment and engaged in corrupt and unethical practices, according to former and current Lithonia police officers.

The Champion was the first to report that Smith and Lithonia Police Captain Lloyd Owens are being investigated by city officials for an alleged assault on a 17-year-old Isiah Harvey, who was in custody for burglary on Feb. 5. The Champion received police reports and statements about the incident from an anonymous source.

That source also provided a seven page document that outlines and describes multiple incidents involving Smith and Owens. The document is titled “The Problems with the Lithonia Police Department: A Collection of Issues Complied by Lithonia Police Officers, both Past and Present.”

In the document, officers stated that they have filed several complaints with no “real action, reaction or resolution.”

“In the past, we, as a group and individually, have made our concerns known to the Lithonia City [Administrator] Eddie Moody and city council, only to have our complaints revealed directly or indirectly to [Smith] with no resolution,” officers also stated in the document. “Contrary to popular belief, many officers did not leave the police department based on finding better opportunities. Many officers left because it was the apparent lack of concern from the city [administrator] and/or city council and the countless times their complaints were not satisfactorily addressed, if addressed at all.”

Moody said he would investigate all of the complaints.

“I’m going to look at this whole thing in totality,” he said. “I’m taking the most recent thing [the Feb. 5 incident] first and then I’m going to work backwards. It will be a part of a whole big scope of work.”

Moody also pointed out that no particular officers’ names were signed on the document. The document is signed “A collection of past and present Lithonia Officers.”

“I can imagine, probably, why no names where attached because there are probably very few people who would come [forth],” Moody said.

Smith would not comment on the complaints due the current investigation.

Complaints against Smith

In the document, officers stated that Smith “has engaged in corrupt and unethical practices, mismanagement, violation of oath, favoritism and nepotism, and has exhibited hostility, bigotry and bullying and has made verbal threats towards his subordinates, created a hostile work environment and committed crimes against the general public.”

In one incident, during the IGLOO—Di Original Cooler Party (a Jamaican festival) at Lithonia Amphitheatre in May 2015, former officer Foster Hill witnessed Smith and another officer, Sgt. Angela Hatchett, collecting money from partygoers for parking on properties outside the Amphitheatre.

According to the complaint, when Hill advised Hatchett that she could not collect money for parking, she told Hill that she was following Smith’s instructions and she gave the collected money to Smith.

“The pair thereafter ceased collecting money,” the complaint read. “Subsequently, Sgt. Hatchett asked Chief Smith what he was going to do with the money already collected. Chief Smith advised Sgt. Hatchett that he was going to put the money in a slush fund. Per this discussion, the slush fund would be applied to purchasing new Tasers.”

The Champion was at the May 4, 2015 Lithonia City Council meeting where residents complained about the noise level and other things they saw from partygoers. One resident said she saw police officers charging partygoers to park in some areas, but Smith denied the claim at the time.

“There were residents charging people $15 to $20 to park at [an apartment complex] and at [a nearby church],” Smith said at the time. “When we saw that we made them give the people their money back.”

According to the document, Hill asked Moody and other supervisors about the slush fund—none of whom confirmed the fund’s existence.

“Moody advised that he would investigate the matter, but nothing, to our knowledge, was ever done about the incident,” the document stated.

One month later, in June 2015, Hill was accused by a complainant (later identified as Smith) of smoking marijuana with a defendant at Hill’s home, according to the document. Hill was ordered by Owens to take a polygraph test at Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters on Constitution Ave. in Atlanta. When the polygraph examiner asked Hill if he knew why he had to take the test, Hill gave the examiner the paperwork provided to him from Owens.

“However, once the examiner saw the paperwork, the examiner noticed that the paperwork did not match the file previously forwarded to Georgia State Patrol,” the document read. “No paperwork presented to the Georgia State Patrol identified a complainant.”

The document claims Owens told Hill that Smith was the complainant and filed the complaint based on an anonymous tip. When Hill asked if Smith had filed a written statement about the alleged marijuana incident, Smith allegedly told Hill that he did not have to write an official statement because he was the chief, according to the document.

“In that same exchange, Chief Smith admitted to having ‘a bone to pick’ with Hill because he complained of harassment to Moody,” the document read.

Hill, who spent four years on the Lithonia Police Department, would later resign from the force after Smith had someone—who refused to provide identification—try to conduct a polygraph test on Hill, according to the document.

Hill told The Champion that Smith told a “blatant” lie on him.

“He decimated my character, and it had no merit because if it had merit I would be in jail,” Hill said. “This has been ongoing.”

Hill, who has more than 20 years in law enforcement, said Smith’s actions have no place in a police department.

“When you’re in charge, you can’t do people like that especially with policemen,” Hill said. “That’s what causes animosity in the department.

“If you see how small the department is and see 20 officers just quit like that you would have some type of suspicion,” Hill added. “I have documents where he has stolen, sneaking weapons out of the property room, and [the city] did nothing, zero. I don’t know if it’s politics because they’re trying to get annexation, but I believe that’s what it is. The reason they’re not doing anything to cause bad publicity is because of annexation.”

Was a background check done?

Hill said officers have questioned whether proper background checks were done on Smith and Owens. The Champion alsoreceived copies of Smith’s and Owens’ backgrounds in law enforcement from the anonymous source.

The documents were obtained from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T) Council. According to the report, Smith has been employed with 12 different law enforcement agencies in Georgia since 1988.

Smith was investigated twice by the P.O.S.T council, once in 1994 and again in 2001, according to the report. According to the 1994 case summary, Smith, then an officer with the McDonough Police Department, damaged a law enforcement vehicle while responding to what he assumed was a call for help from another officer.

According to the case summary, Smith did not file an immediate report as required and was charged with failure to operate a law enforcement vehicle “in such a manner as to avoid injury to persons or damage to property.”

“Upon review, said officer was terminated as a result of the aforementioned violation, which occurred during his/her probationary period of employment,” the summary stated.

The P.O.S.T council did not take further disciplinary action in that investigation, as well in the 2001 investigation, which stated Smith was investigated for obtaining a “criminal history improperly and possibly illegally,” according to the case summery.

Smith was also terminated from his job with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office in 1990. The document did not explain the reason for Smith’s termination.

Hill believes Smith should have never been hired to the Lithonia department.

“If you look at his post record he has been with [12] departments,” Hill said. “How he has enabled his way in and out is beyond me. Common sense will tell you that if you see a record like that, you wouldn’t hire him. Something is wrong.”

 Hill said he and other officers have told city leaders that Smith shows favoritism to Owens. According to Owens’ and Smith’s background information, the two have worked together since 2010 beginning with Morris Brown College Campus Police Department.

Smith was hired by Morris Brown in February 2010 and Owens was hired a month after.

Smith also began working with the Lovejoy Police Department in 2011 as a reserve officer while employed as deputy chief with Morris Brown.

When the Morris Brown department was deactivated, Owens was hired as a peace officer with Lovejoy in January 2013. He was also hired by then Lithonia police chief Moody as an investigator and reserve officer in February 2013. He became a full-time investigator for Lithonia in September 2013.

Smith, who was also hired by Moody as a reserve officer in February 2013, was promoted three months later to captain, according to his record. Smith was then promoted to chief—based on Moody’s recommendation—when Moody was promoted to city administrator in November 2014.

In January 2015, Owens was promoted to sergeant by Smith, and then promoted to captain in January 2016.

Hill said there were other officers who have done more work than Owens has and have been with the department longer than Owens, yet Owens received the promotions.

“Owens has done absolutely nothing,” Hill said. “[Smith] gives this guy all the perks and he conspires with him, and takes the extra jobs from other officers and gives it to this guy. The guy lives with him. Everywhere Chief Smith has been Owens has been.”

Moody said the questions surrounding Smith’s and Owens’ background will be addressed.

“First of all, Lithonia doesn’t pay a big salary,” said Moody. “So when we talk about background checks—people have to be careful how they throw out rocks and hide their hands because everybody has a background.”

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4 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Lithonia police chief accused of creating ‘hostile work environment’

  • February 25, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Sounds like Moody is defending Smith, I wonder what those two have done together.

  • January 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

    My. Name is John U. Williams, Who is a citizen. Victim of Lithonia Police Department. I’m not sure the exacted date, but it was. November 2014. Sometime around 8:00pm , I was stopped by a Lithonia police officer at the intersection of Main street and Covington Hywy, He told me the reason he pulled me over because my tag light were out.
    I explained to him that was not surprised he stopped me because I was having the worst week of my life. He understanded my troubles. My F-150 truck broked down twice that week and I was facing eviction from my home I lived in for the past sixteen years.
    The officer ran my license (Massachusetts license) as formality to make sure I didn’t have any warrant. I. DIDN’T HAVE ANY WARRANT. AT THIS POINT, SGT ANGELA HATCHETT came on the scene and took over. She began to behaved disrespectful to me. She told me she can’t find me in any of their police system, and began to addressed me as a John Doe; even though I provided her with several forms of id and my ss#.
    My remark to her was: “shouldn’t that be a good thing, as a black man, I’m not tired up in the criminal system .” She respond: “Well I’m going to find a reason to arrest and put you in the system.” So she claimed I didn’t exist and arrested me.
    While in Dekalb County Jail, I suffered a silent stroke that caused me to walk with a cane for eight months and also suffered from hypertension. I lost my home because I had to used the money to bail out of jail.
    Now I’ve been homeless from false exercise of power over Lithonia citizens by Sgt. Angela HATCHETT .
    After filing a report at the district’s Congressional office, I was directed to addressed my complaint to Eddie Moody’s office.
    Upon meeting with Moody, he directed me to the chief of police police and the captain. I had a very emotional conversation with them about SGT. HATCHETT Falsely aresting me for not having a license. She claimed that my license been revoked since 1999.
    During the meeting with the captain and the chief i provided them with all my previous license from 1999 to present. The chief asked the captain to pull the actual report. The captain returned to the chief and told him it doesn’t look good. He hilighted what I was charged with, (Driving with a revoked license).
    When I told the captain my case was directed to the county court, he abruptly ended the meeting, stating that we don’t have anything more to talk about and send on my way.
    While waiting on my court date from the Dekalb county court to be mailed to the address i provided to Lithonia Court, I decided to visit the Dekalb County Court, to find out if my court date was mailed yet; since it was almost time for me to returned to Massachusetts. When I received the letter, it had a totally new mailing address to stopped me from getting the mail. However, I made my court date and my case was dismissed without any fines.
    I wasn’t able to find a lawyer to fight for my justice. Even though I filed a complaint with the ACLU, I haven’t received any confirmation that they going to handle the case. But then I’m homeless and don’t have a physical address.
    However, if anyone can help me with this matter, I can be reached via email at: urialuxstar69@Gmail.com…thank you for any help that can me with this situation. The first order of duty of a police officer is to “PROTECT AND SERVE”. They are not giving the power to destroy good citizens likes,base on their own prejudices.

  • April 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Trust me folks. This so-called Police Department is a joke. Want proof? I invite you to come see me and I will show you simple proof. There is nothing but “bad” police work happening in this precinct and the Detectives that are assigned to cases sit on their asses allowing criminals to come and go. Again, want proof? I invite you, the press or anyone that will look at the evidence and then make a determination., I do not lie. I do not make false witness. I will tell you, I did the work, I did the right way on approaching this and I was turned away. Not once, but twice.

  • April 17, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Trust me folks. This so-called Police Department is a joke. Want proof? I invite you to come see me and I will show you simple proof. There is nothing but “bad” police work happening in this precinct and the Detectives that are assigned to cases sit on their asses allowing criminals to come and go. Again, want proof? I invite you, the press or anyone that will look at the evidence and then make a determination., I do not lie. I do not make false witness. I will tell you, I did the work, I did the right way on approaching this and I was turned away. Not once, but twice.I even provided these idiots with 3 videos of the theft in action. It shows the car, color, make, model, shows me shading the sun from my eyes and making a positive identification of his tag number and state, shows his every move and even his running away from me. Seriously folks if something is not done and soon I am going to take matters into my own hands. I know where this thief frequents because I drove up the street and saw where he and his thugs hang out. This was in the report as well. I will stop this Neanderthal in his tracks!
    Lithonia police dept. needs to be stripped clean and re-hires made starting from the top down!


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