University remains confident in police chief after involvement in racial discrimination lawsuit


University Police Department located on the corner of Chestnut St and W Second St. Photo credit: Angelina Mendez

The Orion reported in spring 2022 that Interim Chief of Police Christopher Nicodemus was mentioned in a civil lawsuit against the City of Oroville, disrupting the search for a permanent chief for which Nicodemus was the sole named candidate. 

The report occurred the week the university scheduled public meetings for the search, which were canceled after university officials learned that he was named in the suit. Nicodemus remains the interim chief. 

Andrew Staples, Chico State’s public relation manager, said last September that the university was “aware of the recent lawsuits” and was gathering more information. 

Staples said the university tasked a group of senior administrators to review Nicodemus’ involvement, but Staples didn’t participate or attend the meeting, so specific names could not be given.

Former Oroville police officer Michael Sears, alleged that Nicodemus condoned and perpetuated hostile work environments when he worked at the Oroville Police Department. Nicodemus worked for the Butte County Sheriff’s Office as a detective and a OPD lieutenant and sergeant in the past.

A sergeant is a police officer who supervises an entire shift while a lieutenant is an officer who supervises multiple sergeants. A detective is typically a senior officer in charge of a case and may go undercover for certain cases.

Sears has been a plaintiff in multiple lawsuits. 

Sears filed a civil lawsuit against the BCSO on March 16, 2015 after experiencing discrimination and hostility in the workplace after almost a decade as a county deputy. Sears alleged racial discrimination and bullying by other officers.

Butte County settled a $645,000 lawsuit without admitting guilt in 2018, according to online court filings. Sears was hired in 2017 at the OPD.

Nicodemus began work at Chico State in 2020 and eventually became interim chief of police following former interim Police Chief Matthew Dillon’s retirement on Dec. 31, 2021. The tenure for interim police chief was changed to a two-year tenure instead of a permanent position, after President Gayle Hutchinson decided that it would foster more diversity and inclusivity in leadership. 

After five years on the job at the OPD Sears filed a lawsuit against the City of Oroville claiming racial discrimination and harassment while working at OPD, and mentions Nicodemus as a contributor in a new lawsuit filed in September 2022. This case is on-going.

Nicodemus has yet to respond to inquiries regarding the ordeal, as the lawsuit is on-going.

“While we can’t speak to the status of this lawsuit against the City of Oroville, we did review the available information and remain confident in Chief Nicodemus’s ability to continue serving in his capacity as Interim Police Chief,” Staples said.