Chesapeake detective sues city, police chief and 3 other officers for discrimination

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – An African-American police detective has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the City of Chesapeake, its chief of police and three other officers.

In an amended complaint filed May 31, Wade Satterfield claims he’s faced discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment while employed by the department.

The suit notes early March 2015 as the start of Satterfield’s personal grievance, when he learned that an Internal Affairs investigation was being launched against him.

The investigation reportedly stemmed from “undercover detective tactics” Satterfield utilized once notified that Chesapeake residents were receiving threatening text messages.

According to the suit, Satterfield opted to text the suspect himself, “using vocabulary similar to the unidentified suspect and in a manner to anger the suspect so that suspect would either become bold enough to identify himself or become angry enough to agree to meet.”

The suit claims one of Satterfield’s supervisors, whose now listed as one of the defendants, approved of this tactic to “flush” the suspect out.

It was later determined, according to the suit, that the suspect was a 12-year-old boy. The Hampton Police Division was contacted, and reached out to Satterfield stating officers were “investigating a complaint involving harassing phone calls from [Satterfield’s] number.”

The suit goes on to allege that Satterfield ultimately received a letter of reprimand for the text messages, and was later accused of failing to properly collect evidence, failing to properly document hours and changing his schedule without prior authorization.

The documents claim that “several of the charges were found to be unsubstantiated” and that Satterfield was “charged and investigated for acts that his similarly-situated Caucasian co-workers had committed, but were not charged, investigated or reprimanded.”

In June 2015, he was informed he was being transferred from the Criminal Investigation Unit to “back on the street” in Operations. Satterfield remains employed by the department and has been since 2001.

The suit lists alleged incidents where white officers committed “egregious acts” without facing a similar transfer; it claims one officer had a DUI conviction and another “negligently shot an African American suspect in Portsmouth.”

In late April 2016, Satterfield filed a letter of discrimination to Police Chief Kelvin Wright, who is also African-American. The captain, sergeant and lieutenant also named in the suit are white.

In a memorandum to dismiss, the City Attorney’s Office fires back, claiming the lawsuit “fails to allege any direct evidence of discrimination or retaliation whatsoever.”

Filed June 14, the memorandum notes that Satterfield’s suit does not allege that his salary was reduced when he was transferred to Operations.

It further states that the suit does not prove that working in Operations is less desirable than working in the Criminal Investigations Unit, and notes that once in Operations, Satterfield received a favorable performance evaluation.

The city’s memorandum calls Satterfield’s allegations about a hostile working environment “vague” and “insufficient.”

Regarding the suit’s claims that Satterfied was treated less favorably than “similarly-situated” white officers, the city’s memorandum states Satterfield didn’t prove that those cases were definitively comparable to his.

“He makes no allegations wherein his ‘similarly situated Caucasian co-workers’ were investigated by another police department for sending… text messages to a minor.”

“[Satterfield] is effectively comparing apples to oranges.”

The case is pending with no court date scheduled.

Satterfield is requesting a jury trial. The suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an amount not yet determined.

His suit claims he has suffered losses and emotional distress.

Both Satterfield and the City Attorney’s Office have declined to comment at this time.