In 2016, The Champion first reported on complaints made by former and current Lithonia police officers who said Police Chief Roosevelt Smith created a hostile work environment and engaged in corrupt and unethical practices.
The allegations were not investigated then, but they soon will be.
On Feb. 8, the Lithonia City Council voted unanimously to hire an investigative firm to review the complaints. Southern Professional Investigations was hired by the council to investigate claims that were brought forth by an officer who left the department in December. His complaints were supported by 30 other officers, according to the council.
Smith, who has denied the allegations, is on paid leave while the complaints are being investigated. Sgt. Pserda Dickerson was appointed interim chief.
Complaints of a hostile work environment, retaliation, low morale, favoritism and a high turnover rate in the department were also listed two years ago in a document titled “The Problems with the Lithonia Police Department: A Collection of Issues Complied by Lithonia Police Officers, both Past and Present” that The Champion received from an anonymous source.
The document was brought to light after the city opened an internal investigation into an alleged assault on a 17-year-old male who was in custody for burglary. Smith and Lithonia Police Captain Lloyd Owens were accused of assaulting the teen. Both were cleared of any wrongdoing by then City Administrator Eddie Moody.
Moody, who was the city’s police chief before being promoted to city administrator, recommended Smith to succeed him as police chief. When the complaints were made two years ago, Moody told The Champion he would investigate all complaints.
“I’m going to look at this whole thing in totality,” he said. “I’m taking the most recent thing [the alleged assault] first and then I’m going to work backwards. It will be a part of a whole big scope of work.”
However, Moody retired four months after committing to investigate the allegations and there has been no word on whether the complaints were investigated.
In the document of complaints given to The Champion, officers said previous complaints against Smith were filed but resulted in no “real action, reaction or resolution.”
The city council will hold a special called meeting Feb. 12 to discuss the terms of the contract with the investigation firm.
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