Bristow police chief demoted, suspended with pay over remarks

Tuesday, April 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BRISTOW, Okla. (AP) _ City officials demoted the chief of police and suspended him with pay over racially discriminatory remarks he reportedly made about a black officer.

Mayor Leon Pinson last week announced the action against Kenneth Britt, who has been with the department for about 20 years and police chief for more than two years. Britt declined comment on Monday.

The demotion and suspension are the results of an investigation into the department, which began about seven weeks ago, City Attorney Kelly Hake said Monday.

Sgt. Howard Crawford, 45, filed a grievance last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying the department was discriminating against him because of his race.

Residents spoke on behalf of Britt and Crawford at a City Council meeting March 25, when a transcript of an audiotaped conversation between Britt and others was discussed. The conversation was said to have occurred July 12 in Britt's office.

Among the topics discussed were some officers' unwillingness to work with Crawford and Britt's concern over Crawford's skin color.

Bristow Sgt. Mark Harman told city councilors last month that during a July meeting with Britt and other officers, members of the Bristow Fraternal Order of Police hid a recording device on themselves ``for the sole purpose to entrap Britt'' into emitting ``racial slurs.''

Harman said Britt's comments have been taken the wrong way.

According to the transcript, after one officer is heard asking Britt, ``Are we going to be in trouble if we don't welcome Howard back?'' the chief reportedly responds, ``I'm saying Howard Crawford will probably file a lawsuit.''

After Britt is heard responding to a comment about Harman, Britt reportedly says, ``... and it ain't Howard that worries me. It's the color of his skin that worries me. That causes me problems; not Howard himself.''

Three pages later in the transcript, Britt allegedly adds, ``I don't want Howard back in. We've done everything in the world to keep him from coming here. But he's coming.''

Crawford said Pinson's actions failed to go far enough.

``If they are going to demote him, it should have been to patrolman,'' Crawford said. ``He shouldn't have any supervisory power. This is not an elimination of the problem.''

Arland Perkins, an Edmond man who has years of experience helping cities with labor relations and personnel management issues, is heading the investigation, Hake said.