INDIANAPOLIS — One of the Greenwood police officers who was recently suspended without pay filed a federal lawsuit against the department and Greenwood Police Chief James Ison earlier this year.
The lawsuit claimed Ison retaliated against Samuel Bowen, an officer in the Greenwood Police Department, after he participated in online discussions surrounding incumbent Mayor Mark Myers and the reporting of violent crime in Greenwood prior to Indiana’s 2023 primary election.
Bowen, along with another Greenwood police officer, was recently suspended without pay after being accused of violating various departmental policies, including its “information technology use” policy, its “mobile data center use” police and its “standards of conduct” policy. Three others also resigned after allegedly violating the policies.
According to the complaint, filed on June 26 in the Indianapolis division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Bowen’s legal team said Bowen engaged in a series of Facebook exchanges with Greenwood residents through various pages before the 2023 primary election.
The discussions centered around the police department’s “perceived lack of transparency in reporting criminal activity and alleged attempts by incumbent Mayor Mark Myers… and Ison to downplay the reporting of violent crime in the city.” The lawsuit stressed Bowen did not identify himself as a member of the department through the conversation or on his Facebook page.
On May 2, the lawsuit stated Ison gave Bowen a letter which said his “privilege to work in an off-duty law enforcement capacity is revoked until further notice” and that he would not be allowed to take his assigned police vehicle home at night or use it for personal transportation any longer. The lawsuit also stated Bowen has been given “the least desirable assignments available.”
“At the time he gave Bowen the letter, Ison made it clear to Bowen that the reason for the actions was Bowen’s participation in the Facebook exchanges critical of Myers and Ison,” the lawsuit said.
In the complaint, Bowen alleged Ison’s decision was an illegal retaliation against Bowen after he engaged in “constitutionally-protected speech, in violation of the first amendment.” The lawsuit also claimed the city of Greenwood and Ison breached Bowen’s contract by “depriving Bowen of his off-duty employment and take home/personal use privileges.”
Through the lawsuit, Bowen is asking for actual, compensatory and punitive damages from both Ison and the city of Greenwood. Bowen is also asking for a jury trial in this matter.
In an amended complaint, filed earlier this month in Indianapolis federal court, Bowen’s legal team said after the initial complaint was filed, the city’s legal staff obtained and transferred Bowen’s instant messaging communications and sent them to Ison. The lawsuit claimed Bowen was the only officer whose messages were sent to Ison.
In early August, the lawsuit said the department interviewed six officers, including Bowen, about their use of instant messages. The focus of the messages was the use of “certain allegedly prejudicial terms during the officers’ communications among one another.” The lawsuit said Ison recommended that Bowen, along with four other officers, be fired based on the language in the messages.
An initial pretrial conference is scheduled in this case before United States Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker at 2 p.m. on Sept. 13 in Room 234 of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, located at 46 East Ohio Street in Indianapolis. No response to the lawsuit has been filed from Ison or the city of Greenwood in Indianapolis federal court, as of Aug. 22.
According to previous reports, Bowen is expected to participate in a disciplinary hearing at 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Greenwood City Building, located at 300 S Madison Ave. in Greenwood.