Janesville31.1°

Town of Beloit police chief faces discrimination suit

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 17, 2010
— The owner of a Beloit towing company has filed a racial discrimination complaint against Town of Beloit Police Chief John Wilson.

Anthony Smith, owner of Flying A.J.’s Towing, 315 Euclid Ave., Beloit, on Feb. 11 filed the case with the U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin.


The town has not been served with the court documents, Administrator Bob Museus said. A court date has not been scheduled.


According to Smith’s claims in online court records, Wilson has the final say on the department’s policy when it comes to choosing towing companies. For six years, Smith has asked to be on the list. The last time he asked was in early 2009.


Wilson has denied Smith’s request, and he used a racial slur when he talked to a town police officer about the matter, the complaint says, adding that Wilson repeatedly uses racial slurs when referring to African Americans.


Wilson’s policy is to not put towing companies owned by African Americans on the department’s call list, Smith alleges.


Smith is black.


The complaint seeks a jury trial and damages for Smith.


The complaint references documents that surfaced during an investigation of Wilson a year ago.


In January 2009, an attorney investigated Wilson after officers filed a complaint about racial slurs that Wilson used while working. The documents state Wilson made racially biased comments from 2006 to 2008.


According to that complaint, Wilson told Smith in December 2008 that Wilson could choose whatever towing company he wanted.


Wilson then told a clerk he refused to use Smith’s towing company and called Smith a derogatory name.


The investigation revealed that Wilson did use racial slurs in the office, although many details of the complaints made by officers were not confirmed.


After the investigation, Wilson was reprimanded in writing and was ordered to take counseling or sensitivity training. He has taken a four-hour training course, Museus said


The investigation revealed that “Flying A.J. was not included on the towing list because of concerns about the owner’s professional standing as reported by department personnel,” according to documents obtained by the Gazette through the Wisconsin Open Records Law.


Smith said he is on the call list for the Beloit Police Department, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Illinois Tollway and several northern Illinois police departments.


The Rock County Communications Center confirmed that Flying A.J.’s is on the Beloit police and sheriff’s office lists.


According to the town’s towing policy, officers may request tow trucks as necessary. Drivers may request a company of their preference—even if it’s not on the department’s call list.



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