Lawsuit Against Dover Police Chief and Sergeant Moves Forward

 

By David Polinsky

Posted July 26, 2015

 

WILMINGTON - Evan Gillespie was employed as a Seasonal Police Officer with Dewey Beach Police Department since 2012 moving up to the supervisor of the seasonal officers in the summer of 2014. In August of 2014, Gillespie resigned from Dewey Beach after accepting a full time position with the Dover Police Department. He reported to the Delaware State Police Training Academy in September to begin his training. What happened next is the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by Gillespie against Lieutenant William Hocker of the Dewey Beach Police (DBPD), Chief Pail Bernat and Sergeant Kevin Kober of the Dover Police Department (DPD), and the City of Dover.

 

The lawsuit alleges that Lt. Hocker contacted the State Police Academy and the DPD and advised them that Gillespie: left his employment with the DBPD early, did not complete all of his police reports before leaving, left the other seasonal officers “hanging”, did not respond to phone calls, kept his badge from DBPD, and failed to follow the proper chain of command when resigning.

 

Sgt. Kober then came to the State Police Academy and questioned Gillespie on the allegations. Gillespie denied he had done anything wrong and advised Sgt. Kober that he had taken all proper steps before leaving the DBPD. Sgt. Kober accused Gillespie of lying and instructed him to pack his bags and leave the academy. The next day Gillespie was in front of Chief Bernat answering the same questions at which time Chief Bernat terminated Gillespie for not being truthful regarding Lt. Hocker’s allegations. The fact that Gillespie was terminated for not being truthful was published in files with the DPD Human Resources and communicated with other law enforcement personnel.

 

Gillespie, who is represented by Daniel Herr of The Norman Law Firm, filed suit alleging that the defendants violated his civil rights by publishing and communicating false information about him and damaging his reputation and ability to pursue a career in law enforcement.

 

All four defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case and on July 22, 2015, Judge Sue Robinson ruled that the civil rights counts against Chief Bernat, Sgt. Kober, and the City of Dover can move forward. The complaint against Lt. Hocker was dismissed because Judge Robinson ruled that whether or not Lt. Hocker defamed Gillespie he was immune from suit under the Delaware County and Municipal Tort Claims Act.

 

The City of Dover and the individual officers are being represented by Daniel Griffith of Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston in Wilmington. Griffith released the following statement to DPN: “The decision simply means, if you believe everything that is alleged in Mr. Gillespie’s Complaint, he can maintain a lawsuit. We believe that there is no evidence at all to support those allegations and that the case will be dismissed summarily once its evaluated on its merits.”

 

Herr refused to comment on the pending litigation and the attorney for Lt. Hocker did not respond to our request to comment.

 

The case is Evan Gillespie v. Lt. William Hocker et al., Case Number 15-51-SLR.

 

You can contact David Polinsky at david@delawarepolicenews.org.