GREENWOOD, Ind. — The city of Greenwood and the Greenwood police chief are responding to claims of retaliation brought forward by an officer in a federal lawsuit.

According to documents filed late last month in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Indianapolis division, the defendants deny that James Ison, the Greenwood police chief, retaliated against Samuel Bowen, an officer in the department after he participated in online discussions surrounding Indiana’s 2023 primary election.

According to previous reports, Bowen, along with Elijah Allen, another officer in the department, were accused of violating the department’s “Information Technology Use” policy, “Mobile Data Center Use” policy and the “Standards of Conduct” policy and were suspended without pay. Three other officers recently resigned in relation to the incident.

Bowen’s lawsuit said that after his initial complaint was filed in late June, the city of Greenwood’s legal staff obtained and transferred Bowen’s instant messaging communications to Ison. The hundreds of messages included anti-Semitic, racial and homophobic rhetoric, as well as sexually explicit content.

How did Greenwood respond to the lawsuit?

According to the response, filed on Aug. 25, the legal team representing Greenwood said they have no knowledge of the Facebook exchanges between Bowen and other residents.

The complaint said these conversations were surrounding the department’s “perceived lack of transparency in reporting criminal activity and alleged attempts by incumbent Mayor Mark Myers, a candidate for reelection in the primary, and Ison to downplay the reporting of violent crime in the city.”

The defendants admitted that on May 2, Bowen was given a letter that revoked his privilege to work in an off-duty law enforcement capacity and that he could not use his assigned police vehicle for personal use. However, the defendants denied this was because of Bowen’s participation in the social media conversations.

The defendants admitted the city’s staff obtained Bowen’s instant messages after the complaint was filed. On Aug. 7, Ison recommended that Bowen and four other officers be terminated based on the “highly inappropriate, offensive and deplorable language unbecoming of police officers” that were used in the messages.

In the response, the city and the chief said Bowen’s claims in this lawsuit are barred by his own actions and inactions. The response also said that the complaint, as a whole, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

What’s next?

The Greenwood Police Department announced Monday that the merit board hearings for Bowen, as well as Allen, have been rescheduled. According to a news release from the department, Bowen’s hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 11 while Allen’s hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 30.

According to additional court documents filed in federal court, the parties requested a trial date for March 2025 for Bowen’s trial. Officials said that the jury trial is expected to take three days.