Anthony “Chachi” Paparo, who was fired from his job as police chief in Yeadon Borough, contends the town council terminated him because of his race. He is White, and the borough residents are 90 percent, Black.
The council members wanted a “Black chief for a Black town,” Paparo told the Delaware Valley Journal during a podcast recorded the day after he was fired.
Paparo’s lawyer filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday against the borough and the council members who voted to terminate him: Council President Sharon Council-Harris, Vice President Learin Johnson, Council President Pro Tempore Tomeka Jones-Waters, and Council Member Carlette Brooks
Paparo is seeking monetary damages, lost wages, and his old job back according to his lawyer, Harold Goodman.
“Here, each of the individual defendants agreed and conspired with one another to terminate plaintiff Paparo’s employment as chief of police of Yeadon Borough on account of his race, White, and in order to hire a Black chief to replace him,” the suit said.
Paparo’s race never mattered, the suit said, until the new group of council members was voted into office last year.
“To them, Yeadon was a Black town, and they wanted a Black chief of police to replace plaintiff Paparo. And they plotted and conspired to achieve that result even before they took office on January 3, 2022,” the suit said. The council voted 4-3 to fire Paparo at a Feb. 17 hearing after a “due process” proceeding. The lawsuit claims the due process hearing was not fair.
“It was a sham proceeding, the votes to fire him already cast and known beforehand,” the suit said. “Moreover, it occurred among false and defamatory charges that Chief Paparo was guilty of money mismanagement and wage theft in connection with the borough’s collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police.”
More than 1,000 people signed a petition supporting Paparo, and many came to that meeting with signs expressing their support of “Chief Chachi.”
Paparo was part of the Love is the Answer movement, which seeks to build better relationships between the police and communities of color. Paparo told DVJournal he worked hard to help the community, for example, by providing animal control services with his traps and putting up deer fences for elderly residents himself.
“It’s another way to meet people other than just through a 911 call for an emergency or an accident, or you’re a crime victim, or you’re having a problem with your neighbor,” he said. “I’m coming there. We’re just talking, one on one human to human, and then interacting.”
Meanwhile, “before they were sworn in, the four individual defendants had already decided that because Yeadon was ‘a Black town,’ they would terminate the employment of Chief Paparo and replace him with a Black chief of police,” the suit said.
The council members who had decided to fire Paparo offered him three months’ salary if he would resign. Paparo declined that offer, the suit said. As a “pretext” to get rid of him, council members blamed Paparo for a $387,000 settlement with the FOP over overtime paid to part-time officers during the pandemic, the suit said.
The suit points out town officials agreed to that amount as part of an arbitration settlement, and Paparo had never seen the consent decree until the day he was fired.
Supporters of Paparo’s firing had an oversized copy of the check on display at a Feb. 10 council meeting.
“Not a single witness testified against Chief Paparo. Not a single document was introduced to support the majority’s decision. Indeed, not a single question was put to Chief Paparo in response to his lengthy, detailed account of his accomplishments, his dedication to the town of Yeadon, and the reasons why he, with the mayor’s approval, hired part-time officers to help keep Yeadon safe during periods of significant staff shortages and during the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s murder and the COVID-19 epidemic that roiled Yeadon and its adjacent communities,” the suit said.
“Paparo has suffered irreparable harm to his unblemished reputation for honesty and integrity, a reputation built over the 37 years he has served as a law enforcement officer. That reputation, so consistently built and reinforced, was taken away in the flash of a 4-3 vote based on the false premise, lacking in any due process, that he was guilty of money mismanagement and wage theft, a scar from which he cannot recover,” the suit said.
Retired Upper Darby Police Chief Mike Chitwood had promoted Paparo to captain when he worked in Upper Darby before coming to Yeadon.
“He was a very, very good cop, excellent,” said Chitwood. “He was in charge of SWAT.”
“If you fire somebody because of the color of their skin, that’s not appropriate,” said Chitwood. “That’s not fair, and it’s absolutely insane.”
But if there was a budgetary reason, that would be a different story, he said.
“Obviously, they’re denying they fired him because of racism,” said Chitwood.
The borough’s public information officer referred the Delaware Valley Journal to a “fact sheet” that was sent to every household, saying that Paparo had violated the FOP agreement, among other issues that led to his dismissal.