Washington DC Officers Win Civil Rights Suit

Jul 20, 10 Washington DC Officers Win Civil Rights Suit

By Delores Amorelli, staff writer of SEOLawFirm.com’s Newsroom Column ‘In Good Practice’ – July 20, 2010

A jury in the District of Columbia has awarded five black city police officers a total of $900,000. The federal jury’s recent verdict confirmed that the officers in question were retaliated against after filing racial discrimination complaints with the D.C Office of Human Rights and the federal government. [1]

A jury in the District of Columbia has awarded five black city police officers a total of $900,000.

A jury in the District of Columbia has awarded five black city police officers a total of $900,000.

The officers, who worked for an upper level group targeting vice crimes, began their case in 2006, when they decided to file a complaint for racial discrimination. The officers first chose to make this complaint within the department in the form of an anonymous letter. They chose this method to make a complaint in order to guard their identities. In spite of the anonymous letter, top officials in the officers’ department seemed to figure out who the signers were and began a course of insidious action that the officers would later claim was retaliation for having made the complaint. [1] According to the officers’ attorneys, the officers were “denied information that they needed to carry out their duties effectively and safely.”[1] The officers claim that they were not informed of the presence of armed suspects in their vicinity and they were not given the time and location for observation posts. [2]

After filing the complaint, officers were branded troublemakers by the unit’s commanding officer, Lt. Ronald Wilkins, their attorneys said. [2] A few short weeks after the officers made their official complaint against Wilkins and the department with the federal government, all five of them were removed from their posts and were assigned to lesser positions. The officers’ attorneys allege that these demotions were a direct result of the complaints filed against the department. Wilkins, the officers’ superior, remains on the force, and the officers’ attorneys allege in court documents that after being reprimanded for his actions, he was ultimately given a more prestigious position. [3]

Although the case has seemingly resulted in a victory for the officers, it is unclear whether or not the verdict will stand and, if it does, what impact it might have. According to police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump, “The department is aware of the 2006 allegation and subsequent court decision. At this time, the department intends to appeal this decision.” [1] With or without an appeal, there is still the question of what will happen to Lt. Wilkins, the officers’ superior. As an orchestrator of these events, should he be held responsible? Would the outcome of the case have been different if these acts of racial discrimination had actually caused one of the officers harm? While a $900,000 verdict in favor of the officers is a step in the right direction, can it be enough for acts of racial discrimination that put the officers’ lives and the lives of those they are meant to protect and serve in danger?

Sources

  1. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/D_C_-police-officers-win-_900l-in-civil-rights-suit-1001078-98631379.html – Washington Examiner
  2. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/local-breaking-news/dc/dc-officers-win-900000-in-race.html – Washington Post
  3. http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local-beat/Police-Officers-Win-900K-in-Discrimination-Suit.html – NBC

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