A longtime Chester County law enforcement official is suing the county and District Attorney Deb Ryan for more than $150,000 claiming racial discrimination for “outrageous and malicious” actions.

In the civil rights lawsuit, filed in federal court, Kevin Dykes, of Kennett Square, an African American who was chief of the county detectives, claims Ryan treated him differently than his White counterparts after she was elected in 2019.

Dykes was a former Pennsylvania state trooper before he was hired as a detective by Chester County in 2002. He rose through the ranks under three different district attorney administrations, becoming the first African American chief of detectives under former DA Tom Hogan.

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Ryan told Dykes she was firing him because he was part of the previous administration. Three days later, Ryan, who is White, met with a lieutenant, who was also part of the previous administration. During her conversation with that person, she asked where he was in his career and permitted him to stay another year so he could achieve “superannuation” of his pension, the suit said. Ryan, in contrast, did not ask Dykes where he was in his career or offer him the chance to stay on.

Instead, when Dykes requested to delay his termination by four days so as not to affect his county pension because he would be joining the sheriff’s office, she refused and demanded that he turn in his computer, gun, and badge, the suit said.

However, White employees transferring to another department were not denied the use of their work computers, the suit said.

Subsequently, Ryan allegedly retaliated against Dykes, accusing him of improperly using a county credit card before she took office. That charge that had been previously approved by her predecessor, the suit said.

She also had Dykes removed from the Chester County Law Enforcement Task Force on Race and Justice that was formed after the George Floyd killing using the pretense that only one person from a department should be on the committee, although her department had more than one member, the suit said.

Dolores Troiani, a lawyer for Dykes, said both Ryan and Dykes are registered Democrats, so political party affiliation did not come into play in the disparate treatment that Dykes allegedly received. And indeed, the white employees who received favorable treatment were Republicans.

“It’s racial,” she said about what happened to her client. Dykes is a member of a “protected class” under federal law. Although he could be fired, as can any employee, he “can’t be fired for the wrong reason,” she said.

Dykes, who is now chief deputy for the county sheriff’s office, took a $50,000 reduction in his pay in changing jobs after Ryan fired him, Troiani said.

The suit claims that because of Ryan’s actions, Dykes “suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm.”

“Chester County government does not tolerate discrimination and denies it occurred in this case,” said a spokeswoman for Chester County.

The suit demands that he be reinstated to his previous job and that he receive all previous job benefits, including “back pay,” “front pay,” attorney, and litigation expenses. Dykes also asks to be compensated for “pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, harm to reputation, embarrassment, humiliation, (and) loss of enjoyment of life.”

The suit asks the court to require the county to “eliminate all unlawful discriminatory practices and procedures, including all racially directed terminations and discipline and remedy all discriminatory effects of past practices and procedures.”

“The district attorney unequivocally denies all allegations of this meritless claim,” said Michelle Bjork, Ryan’s communications director. “The district attorney does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

“Chester County government does not tolerate discrimination and denies it occurred in this case. As such, the county intends to vigorously defend itself against this allegation,” said Rebecca Brain, a spokeswoman for Chester County.

Linda Stein writes for Delaware Valley Journal.

This article was republished with permission from Delaware Valley Journal.

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