A Sewickley man who served as a state police trooper for 18 months sued the state of Pennsylvania today, claiming his dismissal was based on racial factors, including his alleged use of "Ebonics" in reports.
William C. Peake, 29, comes from a family with a history of law enforcement, according to his attorney, James H. Logan. He graduated from state police training in May 2009, one of four African-Americans in a class of 75, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
He was assigned to the Uniontown barracks, where the force is overwhelmingly white, according to the complaint.
Though his work was rated as satisfactory, he was taken off of highway patrol duty months before the end of the 18-month probationary period, placed on desk duty and advised of his termination in November 2010.
"They did not give him a fair chance," Mr. Logan said, adding that minorities are "so under-represented" in police forces generally and the state troopers specifically.
Lack of diversity "gives everybody the feeling that it's not quite fair," he said.
The termination letter attributed the firing to "lack of solid job knowledge and basic police skills," plus safety concerns.
Mr. Peake was also "falsely accused of having used 'Ebonics' in his incident reports," according to the complaint.
A state police spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.
"He's applied to numerous police departments," said Mr. Logan. "He gets close to getting appointed, but then there's this cloud over him, like, 'Why did the state police let you go?'"
The lawsuit said the firing amounts to racial discrimination and demanded compensation and reinstatement of Mr. Peake as a trooper.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.