EXCLUSIVE: City, Police Chief Hit With 2 Discrimination Lawsuits - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

First On 3: UPDATE: Police Chief Faces Two Discrimination Lawsuits

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Hall Hall
Fagerstrom Fagerstrom

Comments allegedly made by Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett back in 2011 have led to two different racial discrimination lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court against the Chief and the City.

In both cases, the suits center around alleged discriminatory promotion practices within the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. 

The first lawsuit was filed in January by Captain Charles Hall, a current officer within the department. The second lawsuit was filed Friday by Captain Dean Fagerstrom, also currently employed by SCMPD.

Both suits claim Chief Lovett made promotional decisions on race, and not by "individual merit" when filling a vacancy for the rank of Major.

Both lawsuits allege Lovett stated in a 2011 Command staff meeting Lovett told the gathered officers about the open job.

According to documents, the men claim Chief Lovett added: "you all know that this is a white position". Allegations also state that Lovett would "appoint a white" to the position 'Blacks didn't need to apply', because Lovett allegedly stated that he already had two black Majors in the department.

The lawsuits each add that at a later meeting, Chief Lovett reiterated that the open promotional position was a "white" slot.

Both men applied for the Major's job, and another subsequent position of major which was once held by Gerry Long, a Caucasian woman.

Hall and Fagerstrom went ahead and applied for the position, but were passed over in favor of Richard Zapal and Larry Branson, both of whom had 25 years of experience, and are white.

NEW: Savannah City Manager Stephanie Cutter, issued this statement to WSAV:

"It is the policy of the City of Savannah not to discriminate against any employee on the basis of race. The City, including the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce; one that mirrors the community it serves. Both the City of Savannah and Chief Lovett vigorously deny the assertion that the Chief discriminated against African-Americans and other minorities. On the contrary, he promoted qualified candidates who, in his discretion, were best-suited for the job at hand. Thus, the City will vigorously defend both of the lawsuits which have been filed recently in federal court."

Captain's Fagerstrom and Hall are each asking to be promoted to Major retroactively to last year, and are asking for back pay and damages.

That number in Captain Hall's lawsuit is at least $350,000 in punitive, economic and compensatory damages.

And as for a possible settlement?


Both sides say so far, there have been no "realistic" settlement offers.

Hall Lawsuit PDF

Fagerstrom Lawsuit PDF

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