APD officer sues over Newsom allegations; peace officer groups talk Manley 'inaction'

Austin Police Detective Lamarcus Wells is suing the City of Austin and recently retired Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom.

"Detective Wells said it hit him in the gut...like a punch," said Wells' attorney Dan Ross.  

In the lawsuit, Wells, who has been with the department since 2008, detailed a long list of transfers to highly-desired positions he was denied.  

Ross says his client suspected discrimination played a part but then whistleblower accusations came to light earlier this month that Newsom had frequently used racist language when referring to African Americans, including Wells.

"As you can imagine, years of working, putting your life at risk for a police department you believed in and believed you were getting as fair a shake from them as they were getting from you...all of a sudden he found his worst fears were true," Ross said.

Ross says Wells is suing Newsom for defamation.

"..and it's against him individually. The claims against the City of Austin are that APD systematically has policies that systematically deny people of color, specifically African Americans, the ability to get transfers," Ross said.

Later Monday afternoon, Wells himself was present for a press conference at the Austin Police Association headquarters.

President Ken Casaday applauded City Manager Spencer Kronk for opening an independent investigation into the Newsom allegations, something the union has been asking for.

"What Assistant Chief Newsom said about Lamarcus Wells and Keston Campbell, he said about every other African American here on this force," said Chandra Irvin, President of the Texas Peace Officers Association.

Irvin and Michael Crumrine, President of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association, talked about the inactions of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.  

"You didn't open an investigation, internally or externally. You failed to restrict Justin Newsom's duty in any way," Crumrine said.

"What you permit, you promote," Irvin said.

RELATED: Austin City Council members condemn alleged racism within Austin Police top brass

Irvin says Manley allowed Newsom to continue to make decisions and pointed out the executive staff and command staff are without African American representation for the first time in more than 20 years.

"Chief Manley has had 4 opportunities to diversify the Assistant Chief position here at the department. Each time he opted not to place an African American in the role," Irvin said.

Casaday says they have asked for Manley to be placed on restricted duty while the City investigates.

RELATED: San Antonio lawyer hired to conduct independent investigation into recent allegations of racism, misconduct at APD

"We asked for the City Manager to do that last week, we were denied," Casaday said.  

However, Casaday is not calling for Manley to step down.

"We always feel like our officers deserve due process and Chief Manley deserves no less than that," Casaday said.

In December, the Austin City Council will consider a resolution to initiate an audit of APD's hiring protocols. The resolution calls for a delay in beginning new cadet classes until the audit is complete, which is no later than fall of 2020.

Casaday says they welcome a thorough, honest review of practices but they are against delaying the academy.

Fox 7 reached out to Justin Newsom who had no further comment. He recently said he couldn't recall making the alleged statements but apologized for using inappropriate language in conversations with friends.

On Monday evening, Manley sent the following statement:

"I am aware of today's news conference and look forward to the outcome of the independent investigation. I have been clear about my actions concerning these serious allegations. Again, the anonymous email was immediately forwarded to city management and the Office of Police Oversight when I received it on October 7 to determine if the person had possession of the alleged text messages. The email sender stated they did not want to be contacted for fear of retaliation, so I asked the Office of Police Oversight to make contact instead of the department. I followed up with the Office of Police Oversight on October 24, and the complaint with four alleged comments was received the following week. The former assistant chief named in the complaint was not aware of my actions at any time. I have apologized for any concerns about my actions and the damage caused by the alleged statements, which do not reflect our department's or community's expectations and values."