NEW YORK – Three black detectives in the New York Police Department‘s intelligence division filed a federal lawsuit against the department on Monday, saying they were denied promotions because of their race and that lesser-qualified white officers were promoted instead.
The detectives joined the unit, which is responsible for investigating terrorism and other crimes, in 2001. They said they had track records of solid investigative work, recommendations from their superiors and stellar performance reviews. They said they were passed over for promotions, while supervisors elevated white, less-experienced detectives who performed worse.
The three believe they were passed over because they are black; most of the officers in the division are white, as are all the higher-ranking officers.
Higher-ranking detectives make about $30,000 more than lower-ranked ones.
The lawsuit said there’s a disparity between the percentage of black officers in the police force in general and within the intelligence division: At the time they filed a complaint, 6 per cent of the division personnel were black. Overall, 44 per cent of the department is white, 10 per cent black, 21 per cent Hispanic and 7 per cent Asian.
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“The NYPD professes that promotions are the result of merit alone,” the lawsuit said. “But the NYPD has no structured policy or procedure governing the promotions process for detectives.”
The department didn’t immediately comment on the allegations.
The detectives, Theodore Coleman, Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, which found in 2016 that black detectives don’t get equal treatment.
The commission found the officers in the unit and black detectives generally “received lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.”
The Justice Department declined to file a civil rights lawsuit. The New York Civil Liberties Union took up the case.
The officers have since all retired.
After the September 11 attacks, the NYPD used its intelligence division to detect terror threats by cultivating informants and conducting surveillance in Muslim communities. The practice became the subject of a series of articles by The Associated Press revealing that the intelligence division had infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds.
The NYPD is the nation’s largest police department, with 36,000 officers. The second-largest is Chicago with about 13,000.
© 2017 The Canadian Press