Internal strife among Morrisville police officers

Posted: August 11, 2013

Saying his fellow officers have called him heartless and "the Tin Man" for writing speeding tickets and making DUI arrests, a Morrisville police officer is suing them and his department for harassment, the latest episode in a borough roiling with turmoil.

William Smith also alleges that a fellow officer, Erica McIntyre, continually tried to embarrass him by exposing her breasts and underwear, and asking him salacious questions.

The suit, filed last week in Bucks County Court, provides further evidence of a fractious police department and borough administration.

For her part, McIntyre has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alleging a hostile work environment, according to Smith's suit.

And the borough's mayor, a woman, has said police brass and other officials have told her that police officers don't need a mayor because "they have mayors at home."

The discord already has cost taxpayers money in a town that has some of the region's highest tax rates. Morrisville paid a firm $130,000 to investigate police department activities. It found nothing that rose to the level of criminality, according to the Bucks County district attorney, who reviewed parts of its report.

"The police officers are fighting with themselves, which I'm not sure they have time to do," District Attorney David Heckler said. "I feel badly for the people of Morrisville Borough."

Morrisville, with a population of 8,000, has nine full-time and four part-time officers. It is directly across the Delaware River from Trenton, from which criminals sometimes cross the bridges. Last month, for instance, four men from the Trenton area were charged with robbing seven people at gunpoint in Morrisville.

Victor Cicero, a borough council vice president, said personality conflicts and petty jealousies are typical in police departments.

"But it's gotten to the point that litigation is involved and they're suing each other," said Cicero, a retired career officer who once served as chief in Morrisville and of other Pennsylvania departments.

"It could lead to interference with the performance of the officers," he said. "I'm not saying it has - but it could."

James Downey III, Morrisville's attorney, said the borough's insurance company will handle all litigation. He declined to comment further. The interim police director, Frank DeVesa, did not return phone calls for comment.

Smith, who filed his suit last week, alleges that he and his wife have endured emotional distress and suffered financial losses because he sought medical attention. He is seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages.

The defendants, in addition to McIntyre, are Officer Christopher and McIntyre, her husband; Officer Jim Bickhardt; Lt. Thomas Herron; and the recently retired chief, Jack Jones.

According to the suit, Christopher McIntyre continually harassed Smith about the number of arrests he made and tickets he wrote, stating that DUI charges "only [mess] up an arrestee's life." He also called Smith "heartless" and "the Tin Man" for writing tickets to drivers speeding in a school zone, it says.

It says Christopher McIntyre called Smith a "scumbag" who was trying to make himself look good for securing grants to buy new radios, body armor, and a police van. McIntyre also told people arrested by Smith that Smith was a corrupt officer and that they should file complaints against him, the suit alleges.

Erica McIntyre "exposed her breasts and underwear to [Smith] on two separate occasions" and asked him "how long his penis was" and "continued to ask how long it was," the suit says. She also tried to "set up" Smith, arranging for a woman to approach him outside the police station and indicate "she needed a sexual act" in hope that he would be charged with improper conduct, it says.

Bickhardt told members of Bucks County's police community that Smith was a "crazy and corrupt cop" and "involved in immoral activities off-duty, even though all these statements were untrue," the suit says.

Smith claims in his suit that Herron and Jones failed to address his complaints. Jones often told Smith that "you can't trust a cop who doesn't drink or run around [on] his wife," the suit states.

Smith's suit mentions Erica McIntyre's complaint alleging a hostile work environment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But it offers no other details. Justine Lisser, an EEOC spokeswoman, said Friday that federal law prohibits her from confirming or denying a filed complaint.

The McIntyres declined to comment, referring calls to their attorney, John Gonzales, who could not be reached late Friday.

Rita Ledger, the mayor, is suing borough officials, including Cicero, and the police department over allegedly denying her access to police files and personnel records. She contends that the borough's manager, assistant manager, and Jones told her she got her job only by performing sex acts.

"She has been berated when she tries to tell the police what to do, being told that she is useless and that they 'don't need a mayor, they have mayors at home," her suit claims.

Ledger is seeking damages in excess of $100,000.

"People are seeking justice," Ledger said about the suits.

"I don't believe it's affected [police] performance yet. Does it have the potential to? Yes, it does."


Contact Ben Finley at 610-313-8118 or bfinley@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @Ben_Finley. Get more Bucks County news at Inquirer.com/bucksinq.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|