Williamstown will not seek an outside probe of a police sergeant's claims of racial bias, sexual harassment and retaliation inside the Williamstown Police Department, despite calls to do so by residents and town board.

The Berkshire Eagle reports that on Thursday, a statement from town officials clearly aggrieved by their inability to answer pressing public questions while defending against a newly filed lawsuit.

The situation, the Select Board said,

This puts our community in a difficult position of us asking you to trust that we are taking this seriously, without being able to witness our ongoing discussions or having the benefit of the same information.

In the MCAD document released by the town, Johnson denies that he sexually assaulted McGowan or others. But, the response describes a time when "pranks" were common in what Johnson now sees as part of "unprofessional and juvenile locker room behavior."

Further, the town's response denies that the chief retaliated against McGowan for speaking up on behalf of victims of sexual or racial harassment within the department. And Johnson denies, in the response, that he mocked a Black officer on the force, as McGowan contends.

"Chief Johnson states that the African-American police officer never complained to him that any of his conduct was in any way offensive."

But, the board did release a redacted copy of its response to the complaint that Sgt. Scott McGowan filed last year with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Along with releasing its response to the MCAD complaint, the board announced that Williamstown will tap a consultant to review current police practices, making sure that they are up to date and "in line with the board's expectations."

The town also will examine how it manages its employees and will ensure that programs designed to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace are provided to all town workers, including elected officials.

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