White policeman's suit accuses agency of bias

March 22, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

A white police officer for the Baltimore Housing Authority filed a $3.2 million discrimination suit against the city government and Housing Authority officials yesterday, claiming that black officers are being promoted over whites without regard to qualifications.

Paul Benson claims that although he was hired in 1988 for the No. 2 position in the Housing Authority police force, a less qualified black officer later was given responsibility for much of his staff and received a salary higher than Mr. Benson's.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, claims that when Mr. Benson objected to the black officer's promotion and testified at an internal hearing on behalf of a fellow officer who also complained about it, his supervisors retaliated. They removed his title, cut his pay and spread rumors and lies to put him in a negative light, Mr. Benson contends.

Housing officials have since "falsified" his work record to reflect poor performance, while records of black officers were adjusted to indicate higher qualifications than they had, the suit says.

Although Mr. Benson's suit claims the officials engaged in a practice of such discrimination, he cited no other examples.

Contacted yesterday, Housing Authority Police Chief Hezekiah Bunch declined to comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.

Although the suit does not name Mr. Benson's job rival, Housing Authority sources say it refers to Cornelius Hairston, who was named acting lieutenant colonel last year.

Mr. Hairston came to the department in 1987 after 14 years with the Baltimore City Police Department.

Among other allegations, the suit contends that Mr. Hairston's supervisory role in the housing authority police force led directly to the severe wounding of a city police officer.

Efforts to reach Mr. Hairston were unsuccessful.

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