Romulus whistleblower lawsuit alleges police misconduct

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) - When the Romulus police chief suddenly resigned last week – he blamed the investigation into that city's mayor.

But the 7 Action News Investigators have discovered the chief is facing some scrutiny of his own.

He was brought in to clean up the troubled Romulus Police Department.. But 18 months after he started -- Chief Robert Dickerson suddenly sent a resignation letter to Mayor Alan Lambert on Friday.

Dickerson slammed Lambert for not stepping down after the mayor's home was raided by the Michigan State Police.

So the chief quit.

But is there more to the story?

The 7 Action News Investigators have learned Dickerson is being sued by one of his former underlings..

Detective Sergeant Kevin Ladach worked as the department's Freedom of Information Act coordinator, filling public records requests.

In his whistleblower lawsuit, Ladach alleges that, last summer, one his of fellow Romulus police officers assaulted a prisoner in handcuffs.  The alleged assault happened after the prisoner had spit on the cop and used a racial slur – and it was all caught on video inside the department's lockup.

In the lawsuit, Sergeant Ladach says the assault victim later asked Chief Dickerson for a copy of the footage – but the Chief said "he would not be given the video."

Ladach decided to save a copy of the video. But after an attorney sent a FOIA request – Ladach says "Chief Dickerson then instructed [him] to delete the (digital) video copy from his computer and USB drive."

The lawsuit says Ladach "decided to report his suspicions of a cover-up of possible criminal conduct to the Michigan Attorney General's Office."

Ladach says blowing the whistle got him demoted to road patrol.

Ladach's lawyer recently fought for the release of the video tape of the alleged assault in court.

"Police misconduct is at the zenith of the public interest, and  I believe there to be police misconduct, and we won't know until we see the tape. We won't know until we see the records," said attorney Joel Sklar.

But lawyers for the city say the citizen who was hit by the officer made a written statement saying his safety and job could be jeopardized if the video is made public.

"His identity is irrelevant to that issue. We have a statement, a request from a citizen not to release his identity or his image," said attorney Audrey Forbush.

Ultimately, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo ruled that the police department does not have to release the video.

"The weight clearly comes down in favor of protecting the interest of the citizen," said Colombo.

7 Action News spoke with former Police chief Robert Dickerson late on Monday. He says there's absolutely no connection with the whistleblower lawsuit and his resignation.  He says if the mayor steps down, he would be happy to return to the police department.

Dickerson also says the police officer who hit the citizen was disciplined, and that the citizen pleaded guilty to his charges. 

Meanwhile, the city's attorney won't comment on the whistleblower lawsuit, but in their own court filings they say the retaliation and cover up claims are not true.

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