Moss Point officer files discrimination charge with EEOC

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Trouble may be brewing inside one of the busiest police forces in South Mississippi.

"I, along with the board, was notified by the city attorney that a complaint had been filed with the EEOC, and that it was filed from someone within the department," Moss Point Mayor Xavier Bishop said.

The charge says over the past few months, Chief Sheila Smallman passed up Officer Mike Upchurch for promotions, a new patrol car and the shift he requested.  He said it's because he's white, and because he has filed complaints against her with the city's Human Resources Department.

In the charge, Upchurch wrote that Smallman told him, "If I filed another grievance with Human Resources, that I would be 'punished."

Mayor Bishop said this isn't the only complaint he's heard about the Chief Smallman, but it's the only one that's gone to the EEOC.

"It's a disappointment," Bishop said.  "I would have to say that.  In that it represents the complaint, a concern, and issue that was brought to the floor and could not be handled internally satisfactorily."

When WLOX News showed Chief Smallman the complaint, she said she had never seen it before, and was surprised the issue had been taken all the way to a federal agency.  She said the issue had been handled internally.

Mayor Bishop, however, contradicted his police chief, saying Smallman had seen the complaint before Monday.

Smallman didn't go on camera to discuss the matter, but told WLOX News that she doesn't believe it's in her character to discriminate.

"I have high respect for my employees," she said.  "There is no retaliation or discrimination on my part whatsoever."

She and Mayor Bishop are both taking the charge very seriously.

"I consider something like this to be a blemish and something that we need to work on very vigorously to eliminate in the future," said Bishop.  "So that, at best, these complaints can be handled at the lowest level."

Bishop said the city will handle the complaint through mediation as part of the investigation.

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