Former West Chester police captains file federal lawsuit against township, police chief

The two former West Chester Twp. police captains who lodged complaints against Police Chief Joel Herzog last year have filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court against the chief, trustees and township.

Former captains Joe Gutman and Jamie Hensley filed suit Thursday seeking an undisclosed amount of money including lost pay and benefits and compensatory and punitive damages, among other requests. They claim Herzog engaged in a pattern of sexual and racial discrimination against department staff and retaliated against them when they complained about it.

Hensley quit the department last year, and Gutman left in January after what the suit describes as “intolerable” work conditions.

“The continuing hostility from Defendant Herzog, his allies, and the township caused Captain Gutman’s working conditions to be so intolerable that no reasonable person would endure them. The ongoing retaliation and hostility began impacting Captain Gutman’s health,” the suit reads.

“More significantly, Captain Gutman feared for his safety were he to encounter a life-threatening situation in the line of duty due to the extreme hostility directed at him in the department. As a result, he was forced to resign from WCPD on January 16, 2021 after over 24 years of service to West Chester Township.”

The trustees and others are also named in the suit, including attorney Douglas Duckett, who was hired by the township to investigate the allegations.

Duckett concluded Herzog did not deserve disciplinary action but needed to make some improvements. Improvement plans were drafted for both Herzog and Gutman.

Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson said the township cannot comment on pending litigation. The Journal-News interviewed Herzog recently about conditions at the department nearly a year after the investigation.

“We were working very diligently to make it a comfortable, safe workplace for everyone,” Herzog said about Gutman’s resignation. “We had a process in place to continually improve and if he felt different that’s something you’d have to ask him.”

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