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Police sergeant at center of suit speaks out

Lawsuit came as last resort after nearly three years of complaints
By: Jon Brines Press Tribune Correspondent
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Since the public caught its first glimpse of the civil rights lawsuit that pits three Roseville police officers against the department and city some have questioned their motives. Now Darin DeFreece, a plaintiff in the case and a current Roseville Police sergeant, wants to set the record straight. “It’s frustrating and makes me sad and angry,” DeFreece said. “(The lawsuit) doesn’t change my love for the job.” On Thursday DeFreece joined two co-workers to file the suit and stop anti-gay harassment based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation within the ranks of police department. The suit alleges complaints to management fell on deaf ears and in some cases the harasser was promoted and the harassed were demoted or fired. DeFreece considers himself a whistle blower. “I am trying to get the city to pay attention, listen to what is happening at the police department and actually correct it,” DeFreece said. DeFreece said he’s experienced the anti-gay culture since he came to the department in 2000, and as a supervisor he has tried every avenue to change it. “This is a last resort,” DeFreece said. “In the police department, apparently you have to yell and scream from the mountaintops for two and a half years and it’s only when you file a lawsuit that you start generating some attention at the top level.” Even though DeFreece is married he believes discrimination affects everyone. He said the constant anti-gay jokes and use of derogatory language at work depressed his coworkers and made them not want to come to work. “It is because the (Roseville Police) culture has always been it is OK to make offensive jokes and offensive terminology in briefings,” DeFreece said. “In the corporate world you would be frog marched right out of the building the first time you did it.” The suit names Roseville police sergeant Kelby Newton as a defendant in the case and lists a series of incidents of alleged harassment perpetuated by Newton. When contacted about the lawsuit Sgt. Newton declined to tell his side of the story. “At this time, I have nothing to say,” Newton said. The suit alleges that DeFreece hit a brick wall when he reported complaints received by other officers, which he was required to do as a supervisor. The complaint alleged in April 2009, DeFreece was reprimanded by the police chief for reporting a harassment complaint by a Roseville police scene technician. The technician was later transferred to a low-profile assignment, according to the suit. DeFreece said critics who say he’s only doing it for the money need to realize the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, would force the city to change direction at the police department. “I have had people come to me that are not part of the lawsuit and support my decision to do this,” DeFreece said. He wants citizens to know the majority of Roseville officers are professional and tolerant of alternative lifestyles. “The problem is you have a few individuals who are toxic to the organization who believe this is OK or they are not educated enough to know their conduct is illegal,” DeFreece said. While he said it’s hard to go to work with those named in the lawsuit, he feels the filing is an extension of his sworn duty to uphold the law. “There is a point in time where right is right,” DeFreece said. “If you move on you are not correcting the problem. You are just allowing the conduct to continue because you don’t have the courage to help solve the issue.” DeFreece said he loves being a police officer and the lawsuit won’t change that. “For me getting up in the morning and going to work means that I’m making a difference,” DeFreece said. “It is about protecting innocent people and protecting my family, it is about making the quality life in the city better.”