MERIDEN — A city resident has filed a lawsuit against the city, Police Chief Jeffry Cossette and former Meriden Police Union President John Williams, alleging his son’s arrest was published on social media in retaliation against him for being an outspoken critic of the police department.
Christopher Dingwell Sr., who filed the lawsuit Aug. 29, is seeking compensation in excess of $15,000 in addition to “such other and further relief as in law or equity may appertain.”
City Manager Guy Scaife declined to comment on the lawsuit. Cossette and Williams did not return a request for comment. Williams retired earlier this year.
Dingwell Sr. declined to elaborate on the lawsuit’s allegations.
“I think the facts will speak for themselves,” he said. “I know so.”
Meriden police arrested his son, Christopher Dingwell Jr., on March 27, 2016, and charged him with possession of a facsimile firearm, carrying a dangerous weapon, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to carry a dangerous weapon. A press release on the arrest was posted to the Meriden Police Department’s Facebook page the following day.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Dingwell Sr. obtained an email sent from Williams to Cossette the day of his son’s arrest.
Williams wrote to Cossette encouraging the incident be published on Facebook.
“Most importantly is the fact that Chris Dingwell is one of the most outspoken citizens against this administration and department,” Williams wrote in the email. “This case should be exploited for what it is, not only excellent work on the part of our men and women of this agency but the fact that this is the guy who touts his inner knowledge and workings of the police department and has an association with a rat or two from within our department. Yet he does nothing to make this community better and instead has created drama for the real citizens of this city.”
The lawsuit alleges a member of the Meriden Police Department contacted Dingwell Sr. and told him to “keep quiet and lay low” prior to a meeting of the City Council on Sept. 6, 2016. At that meeting, Dingwell Sr. criticized the police department for a lack of transparency and its response to increasing gang violence in the city, among other perceived inadequacies.
The lawsuit alleges police then began keeping a closer eye on Dingwell Sr., who subsequently became “fearful of continued retaliation” and forced him to “curtail his public speech against the Meriden Police Department as a result of their continued retaliation and efforts to thwart him.”