Admitting that he had made mistakes and expected to receive some disciplinary action, former Pine Bluff police lieutenant Rowland Dorman described his firing last month as “excessive.”
“I want my job back, my career,” Dorman said during an appeal of the firing Tuesday before a civilian review panel of city employees from other departments.
Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones fired Dorman on Jan. 24 after receiving complaints that Dorman, who was a shift commander assigned to the Patrol Division, allegedly harassed Officer Traci McDonel, who was assigned to his shift.
“We have a zero tolerance about sexual harassment,” Davis-Jones said. “He has admitted 90 percent of the allegations and that alone justifies termination.”
Dorman said he believes he was fired by Davis-Jones in retaliation for his complaints about the department going to 12 hour shifts, and for speaking out against a pass-fail rating system for applicants taking a captain’s test.
“Other officers have done a lot worse and they were not terminated,” Dorman said.
According to the complaint, Dorman called McDonel “eye candy,” hugged her and kissed her and also followed her while she was on patrol.
In his statement, Dorman denied calling McDonel “eye candy,” but did admit to calling her “candy,” and to hugging her when he took over the night shift where McDonel was assigned.
“The first night, she came up to me and hugged my neck and said she was ‘glad I was her lieutenant,’” Dorman said. “I said ‘I’m glad to have you so I will have something to look at besides all these ugly guys.’ She hugged me and I hugged her.”
Regarding the allegation that he had followed her, Dorman said he found McDonel parked behind the Pine Bluff Country Club one night, where McDonel said she was working on reports.
“Sgt. (Robert) Treadwell told all the officers they were to work on reports on parking lots where they are visible,” Dorman said. “Traci said she was back there ‘so someone wouldn’t walk up on her,’ and I told her if she were on a parking lot, people would see her, but back there, no one would know where she was if someone did walk up on her.”
Regarding the complaint that Dorman was following McDonel or checking up on her, Dorman said “I found every officer on my shift at one time or the other. If they were stopped, I went to see if they were OK.
“I didn’t go hunting for any certain officer,” he said. “I didn’t have the time.”
As far as the allegation that he had kissed McDonel on the top of the head or forehead, Dorman said “I never kissed her at any time.”
Dorman also related an incident he said occurred several years earlier, when McDonel was working as a crime scene technician before joining the department as an officer, and he was working off-duty at the emergency room at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.
“One of the emergency room technicians or something made a comment about her being nice-looking and said ‘you ought to get together,’” Dorman said. “I told her about it and we both laughed and since then, we’ve joked about it.
“I’m a happily married man,” Dorman said. “I love my wife and would never cheat on her.”
Questioned by Assistant City Attorney Darryl Taylor, Dorman said the reference to “getting together”
made by the hospital employee meant “in a physical sense,” and the statement “became a running joke” between himself and McDonel.
“She never one time said ‘don’t say that,’” Dorman said.
During her presentation, Davis-Jones denied that retaliation for complaints about 12-hour shifts, the promotional exam and other things was the reason Dorman was terminated.
“He wasn’t the only one to complain about 12-hour shifts,” Davis-Jones said. “Most of the command staff didn’t agree but I knew we had to put more cars on the road.
“Now, probably 70 percent of the department likes the 12-hour shifts because the officers get every other weekend off,” she said. “I never targeted Dorman, I never have and I never will.”
Earlier, Dorman told the review panel that he had been moved from Day Shift Detective Lieutenant to Night Shift Detective Lieutenant, then to Night Shift Patrol Lieutenant, a move Davis-Jones said came as a result of a request from a deputy chief of police.
“There have been a lot of changes in the Detective Division,” Davis-Jones said. “Lt. (Terry) Hopson was there for 20 years. He was moved.”
Davis-Jones also said McDonel had filed an EEOC complaint, alleging the same things she said in her statement to police investigators.
“We don’t know how many times he did this,” Davis-Jones said. “We can only go by what she said.”
Dorman, who was named Officer of the Year twice in his career, as well as receiving a number of other awards, said the statements he made to McDonel were in a “joking, kidding manner, and were not to be taken seriously.”
He also said McDonel never complained to him about his statements.
“I’ll go to my grave knowing she never said quit,” Dorman said. “I’ve given 23 and-a-half years of my life to this department. I’ve made mistakes but don’t take that (my career) away from me.”
Dorman also said “only one of the four officers (in the command staff, which includes the assistant chief of police and three deputy chiefs of police) recommended termination and that ought to count for something.”
“On Feb. 11, The Commercial reported that Chief Jones said she believed in progressive discipline,” Dorman said. “This was not progressive discipline. This started at the top.”
In addition to Taylor, the review panel consisted of Fire and Emergency Services Capt. James Jackson, and Robert Tucker, director of the city Inspection and Zoning Department.
They will have 10 days to decide whether to uphold the termination, modify it, or reverse it.