lawsuit

A former Conway officer has filed an employment discrimination suit against the Conway Police Department after resigning in November to avoid termination.

Officer Don Newton Jr. resigned from the police department on Nov. 15, 2019, because Chief Jody Spradlin told him “that he was going to be terminated unless he resigned,” according to the employment discrimination suit filed Jan. 6 against both Spradlin and the city of Conway.

Attorney Robert A. Newcomb filed the complaint in Faulkner County Circuit Court on the former officer’s behalf. According to the complaint, Newton has asked a circuit judge to find the city at fault and reinstate his position at the department.

After he resigned, Newton reportedly learned he likely would have been reprimanded and not fired for the statement he made about a suspect in a recent felony arrest.

Though it was taken as a racial slur when Newton referred to the suspect as a “Monkey Ass,” the officer’s attorney argues the term, according to the “Urban Dictionary,” means “to act totally stupid, [or be] a complete idiot.”

Since signing a resignation notice, Newton has unsuccessfully attempted to repeal said notice. According to the recently filed employment discrimination suit, the former officer “understands and reasonably believes that the Review Board recommended either no action be taken because there is not a violation of any policy or a documented oral counseling.”

The officer did not receive the Administrative Review Board’s findings prior to moving forward with signing a resignation notice, according to the complaint. Further, the officer said he felt pressured to resign for fear the police chief would attempt to have him decertified.

Newton had asked for a hearing with the Conway Civil Service Commission in an effort to appeal the constructive discharge issued against him.

According to the complaint, Newton was not informed of the proper procedures city officials would have to meet to have him decertified. The former officer also said that he never would have resigned had he known the review board had recommended “at worst, a written reprimand” in his case.

The former officer believes he was racially discriminated against and points to a recent incident involving an African-American officer at the department.

It was unfair that the city acted “less harshly” against officer Cebron Hackett after a video that shows the officer dancing nude at a Little Rock night club went viral.

Hackett was suspended for 30 days following the incident.

“The Individual Defendant Spradlin also did not punish Officer Cebron Hackett for driving while intoxicated knowing, based upon video [evidence] that he took control of his motor vehicle in the parking lot of the [Conway Police Department] and drove it to his home in Vilonia,” the complaint reads in part. “The Chief knew or should have known that he was intoxicated based upon his behavior in Little Rock, Arkansas.”

The manner the separate cases were handled shows that Newton was discriminated against “because of his race,” the complaint states.

Newton has asked that he be given a hearing before the Civil Service Commission and that a judge find be allowed to work as a CPD officer again, while also receiving “full back pay and benefits.”

“The Court should find that the actions of the Chief of Police in treating the Plaintiff differently than a similar situated African American officer who committed criminal conduct violated the provisions of the Arkansas state Constitution requiring equal treatment of the citizens of Arkansas,” the complaint further states.

The Log Cabin Democrat will continue following this case as details become available.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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