Darby police department sued by ex-cops, constable claiming race-based dangers

The Darby Borough Police Department has faced plenty of civil-rights lawsuits over the years.

But this one originates from behind the Blue Wall.

Two former Darby cops and the borough constable have filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor Helen Thomas, Police Chief Bob Smythe and other police officers, claiming that they were harassed and put in life-threatening situations because they are black.

Former Officer Patrick Ojong said in the complaint that Patrolman Anthony Salvatore, who is white, pulled his service weapon on him in the squad room following a 2007 dispute over Salvatore's flashlight.

Salvatore held the loaded gun inches from Ojong's head and said, "I'm going to f------ blow your head off," according to the suit, which names Salvatore as a defendant.

Elijah Thompson, a former cop in Darby and Chester, accused fellow Darby officers of risking his life by arriving late to requests for backup - or not showing up at all. He also charged in the suit that he was eventually excluded from responding to most calls, "except certain calls that the white officers didn't want to answer."

Thompson, who works for the William Penn School District, and Ojong, who moved to Maryland, said they had been forced to quit.

Also joining the suit is Curtis Stockley, the elected constable in Darby. Stockley claimed that he'd been banned from taking prisoners to the borough jail and that he remains "fearful to execute any warrants because he is afraid that he will not receive backup."

Stockley, the brother of Borough Councilwoman Edna Stockley, accused Smythe of attempting to interfere with his second job as an investigator in the William Penn School District by telling the district superintendent that he was racist and belonged to the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle Club.

In the lawsuit, Stockley conceded that he once was a member of the West Philadelphia bike club, but said that he has not been an active member for "many years."

Smythe did not return a call requesting comment yesterday. Darby Solicitor Raymond Santarelli said the borough wouldn't comment on active litigation. Salvatore could not be reached.

In 2005, then-Mayor Paula Brown ordered Smythe suspended because he refused to remove Salvatore from the officer schedule. She had raised questions about Salvatore's conduct.

Yesterday, Brown called it "admirable" that Stockley, Ojong and Thompson filed the suit. She said that cops don't like having a colleague accuse them of wrongdoing.

"To me, they are to be highly commended that they came forward," Brown said. "Cops don't tell on other cops."

The suit, filed last month in Philadelphia by New Jersey attorney Gregg Zeff, names as a defendant a black police lieutenant. The mayor is also black.

"Discrimination is discrimination," Zeff said, "whether you're an active participant or whether you aided or abetted."