ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A former police chief of a small town on Maryland's Eastern Shore who says he was ousted by local officials for refusing to fire two other black officers has been indicted on charges of misconduct in office, the state's prosecutor said Wednesday.
Ex-chief Kelvin Sewell and Lt. Lynell Green each face one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in office and one count of misconduct in office, State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said.
The indictment alleges they interfered with the investigation of a motor vehicle accident by subordinate officers in 2014 to benefit a local correctional officer.
"Police officers take an oath to uphold the laws of the state without partiality or prejudice," Davitt said. "Any disregard of that oath should never be tolerated."
Green declined to comment on the charges. Barry Coburn, an attorney representing Sewell, declined to comment in detail on the charges.
"We will look forward to addressing this matter in the courtroom when the time comes," Coburn said.
Sewell, a former Baltimore police homicide detective, was Pocomoke's first black police chief. The town of about 4,000 is predominantly black. Sewell's firing last year stoked racial tensions in the town. The Pocomoke City Council gave no reason for the firing, calling it a personnel matter. Sewell claimed he was fired for refusing to terminate two other black officers who, like Sewell, filed job discrimination complaints.
Attorneys representing Sewell, Green and Officer Franklin Savage filed a federal lawsuit in January, accusing city officials and members of other law enforcement agencies of racial discrimination. The lawsuit claims that Sewell and Savage were targets of racial hostility, retaliation and discrimination before being improperly fired. The lawsuit alleges Green has faced retaliation for supporting Savage and has been ostracized by the department.
Pocomoke City leaders previously defended their decision to fire Sewell but said they are prohibited from commenting because of privacy rules and pending litigation.
Sewell was hired in March by the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office as a contract employee to investigate felony, homicide and violent crime cases.