City Council urges settlement of bias claim by former officer

February 02, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Fearing the loss of critical federal crime-fighting dollars, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution yesterday urging the Police Department to settle a discrimination complaint filed by a former African-American police sergeant.

In a related matter, the 19-member legislative body also unanimously requested that the department explain psychological testing procedures that are resulting in a high rate of young African-American male and female police candidates being rejected.

In December, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that the department violated civil rights laws by punishing black officers more harshly than whites and retaliating against those who complained about the "centralized practice."

The agency made the determination after reviewing the case of former Sgt. Louis H. Hopson. The black officer was fired last year after a police trial board concluded he made a false statement in a Baltimore Circuit Court trial. The 18-year veteran and two-time department Officer of the Year contends that he was dismissed for exposing chronic racial discrimination within the police administration.

Council members noted yesterday that if a settlement cannot be reached among the EEOC, the department and Hopson, the U.S. Justice Department could intervene by withholding federal funding under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Last night, the council approved bills accepting $6.1 million in federal crime-fighting grants.

"This resolution seeks to encourage the Police Department to take a positive perspective and initiate conciliatory negotiations with the EEOC," said Southwest Baltimore Councilman Norman A. Handy Sr., sponsor of the resolution.

Police administrators, including Chief Thomas C. Frazier, have acknowledged a pattern of disparate disciplinary treatment of black officers by the department but say they have made changes over the past two years to eliminate the problem.

The changes have included adding African-American officers to police review boards and creating an oversight panel with minority representation to ensure equality in disciplinary cases. The department has denied retaliating against Hopson or any other officers who have been disciplined.

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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