A deputy chief with the Camden Police Department has filed a lawsuit against the city, county, and state, alleging he was verbally abused and subjected to a hostile work environment because he is a white male.
Michael Tompkins, 50, a 23-year veteran, is on leave for a disability he says was created by the department's top leaders, who repeatedly demeaned him, retaliated against him, and undermined his authority.
As a result of the "defendants' discrimination and hostile work environment, plaintiff has been damaged," said the lawsuit, filed late Wednesday afternoon.
Four current and former police officials are named as well, accused of discriminating against white, middle-aged men whom officials wanted to purge from the payroll, according to the lawsuit, which seeks monetary compensation.
City officials either declined to comment or did not return calls for comment.
It is the latest of several lawsuits pending against the police department that include similar allegations of discrimination and a hostile work environment, including one filed by a commander whose trial is under way in Camden County Superior Court.
The 500-member department, which polices a city ranked with the highest crime rate in the nation, has seen five leadership changes in five years.
According to Tompkins' lawsuit, his troubles began in 2006, when the city hired Arturo Venegas, a retired police chief from Sacramento, Calif., as a civilian executive to oversee the Camden Police Department.
"Almost immediately upon assuming his position . . . Venegas began to discriminate against [Tompkins], based upon plaintiff's status as a middle-aged white Caucasian male," the lawsuit alleges, adding the discrimination continued under Chief Scott Thompson after Venegas left.
Venegas resigned from the $170,000-a-year job after 17 months.
Venegas could not be reached for comment. Thompson did not respond to messages for comment and police department spokeswoman Teresa Sicard Archambeault referred questions to the city attorney, who did not return calls.
According to the lawsuit, when Tompkins voiced concern about other white males being passed over for promotion for positions filled with minorities, the leadership began retaliating against him with disciplinary actions, one time suspending him for six months.
Prior to 2006, the lawsuit said, Tompkins had a clean record with the department.
"Venegas continued to engage in hostile, threatening, and abusive conduct," the lawsuit said. "Routinely speaking to him in a condescending and derogatory manner, repeatedly threatening to fire the plaintiff, having expressed such threats in plaintiff's presence on at least four occasions."
On another occasion, Tompkins was told by another official he was "getting old" and a new statute would allow the city to fire those who were not doing their jobs, the lawsuit said. Tompkins' office was given to another commander while Tompkins was reassigned to a smaller office not properly equipped and infested with ants, the lawsuit said.