A labor group representing most Maryland state troopers filed a legal challenge yesterday to a settlement reached in a $45 million discrimination lawsuit filed by a group of black troopers.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the predominantly white Maryland Troopers Association, which represents more than 1,700 current and retired state troopers, said the settlement of the black troopers' lawsuit violates the constitutional rights of white male troopers and of other troopers by outlining a five-year timetable for increasing black representation in ranks up through lieutenant colonel.
Michael Marshall, an attorney for the troopers association, said more than 90 percent of the group members responding to a survey oppose the settlement, contained in a consent decree filed Dec. 21 in federal court. Troopers association officials say they are unable to provide a racial breakdown of their group.
The state police are 84 percent white. The highest-ranking blacks in the state police are two captains.
The settlement, the product of more than five years of talks between attorneys for the state and the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers Inc., outlines $900,000 in cash settlements and names seven black troopers who will be promoted one rank. The troopers association is not challenging the cash settlements or the promotions, but it is asking the court to throw out what it termed racial "quotas" for promotions.
Emory A. Plitt Jr., an assistant attorney general representing the state police, and David L. Moore, attorney for the black troopers group, have said the settlement outlines flexible "goals" and not quotas. The settlement calls for state police to increase to 22 percent black representation in ranks up through first sergeant.
The troopers association says the plan is unconstitutional because it does not specifically provide a remedy to past victims discrimination. The group cites a Supreme Court decision striking down the city of Richmond, Va.'s set-asides of construction contracts for minority-owned companies. In that case, the high court ruled the plan unconstitutional because it was not narrowly tailored to remedy past discrimination in city construction contracts.
In the settlement of the black troopers suit, the state police deny any discrimination occurred.
A Dec. 17 order by U.S District Judge John R. Hargrove Sr. said members of the state police had 60 days to contest the agreement. Seventeen white male troopers are joining the Maryland Troopers Association in contesting the plan.
Those troopers have asked a federal judge to declare the agency's promotion system illegal. In a class-action, reverse-discrimination suit filed last March, they contend they were passed over for promotion in favor of black and female troopers who scored lower on promotion tests.