ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A former Allentown police officer is suing the city, claiming the police department discriminates against minority police officers.
John Tamburello, of Albrightsville, says the Allentown Police Department has a history of disciplining its minority police officers differently than its white police officers. The lawsuit, filed Monday, also claims the city's police department has a history of perpetuating racist behavior towards minority police officers.
Tamburello claims he should not have been terminated for a 2019 police incident. He says he, along with two other officers, responded to a burglary call on February 18, 2019 and encountered the suspects in a vehicle.
Tamburello says the driver turned the vehicle towards him, and the vehicle hit him on the sidewalk. At the same time he was hit, Tamburello discharged his firearm, which struck the vehicle, according to the lawsuit. Tamburello says the two officers who were with him also discharged their firearms at the vehicle, though neither had been hit by the vehicle.
Tamburello was placed on administrative leave during an investigation of the incident.
"Despite being justified to use force while being struck by a vehicle," the city's police department terminated Tamburello's employment on May 31, 2019, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says the two officers who were with him were not terminated. One received a 10-day suspension, while the other saw no discipline, the suit says.
The lawsuit claims Tamburello was treated less favorably than other police officers because he is Hispanic and Puerto Rican.
After deciding to terminate Tamburello for the February 2018 incident, the city's police department looked for other incidents in which to justify terminating his employment, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit says the police department accused Tamburello of lying in January 2019 when he told a prosecutor he was head-butted by a suspect but did not report the use of force. The paperwork says APD did not decide to investigate the incident until after the police shooting in which Tamburello was placed on leave and later fired.
The lawsuit also lists several alleged incidents where white officers should have been disciplined, but received little to no consequences. In one example, a detective was arrested for DUI while off duty, so he was reassigned to patrol unit, but then resumed his regular position a few months later with no further discipline, the lawsuit says.
Tamburello is suing on counts of discrimination and hostile work environment, and is asking for back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, reinstatement and other relief.
A spokesperson for the City of Allentown told 69 News the city has not been served with the suit, and therefore has no comment.