Punishment of Baltimore police officer was discriminatory, equality panel says

Nonblack colleagues did not face inquiry

April 23, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore equal opportunity panel has concluded that the city Police Department discriminated against a former black police major, despite finding that he likely shared answers to a detectives test with a colleague.

The city's Community Relations Commission said the department discriminated against former Maj. Goldie S. Phillips Jr., a 24-year veteran who once supervised the city's homicide unit. The department erred by failing to equally discipline four nonblack officers implicated in a 1997 test scandal, the commission decided.

The discrimination ruling is the latest against the Baltimore Police Department, which the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December concluded had a "centralized practice" of punishing African-American officers more harshly than white ones.

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier has acknowledged historical racism within the department before his 1994 arrival but contends steps have been taken to address it. During the past five years, Frazier promoted black commanders to oversee discipline, ensured minority participation on police trial boards and doubled the percentage of black officers on the force to 36 percent, he has said.

The department declined to comment yesterday on the Phillips ruling, saying that the matter is in litigation.

Phillips, working as a customer service representative with the state Department of Social Services, said yesterday he expects to negotiate with the department to remedy the matter. Phillips wants his job with back pay and retirement benefits.

"I'm pleased with the ruling it made me feel the commission has value," said Phillips, 45 and a father of six. "When you are accused, it is a very stressful time, not only for the accused but for the family."

Phillips alleged that he was forced to retire in June 1997 in retaliation for raising allegations of discrimination within his unit. A year earlier, Phillips told his supervisor, Col. Steven A. Crumrine, about his concern. Crumrine disagreed with Phillips' assessment and suggested he forward the allegations to the department's Internal Investigations Division. Phillips did not make a formal claim, according to the March 5 confidential commission report obtained this week by The Sun.

Phillips later suggested a detectives test for officers wanting to transfer into the department's Criminal Investigations Bureau, a move previously based on informal interviews.

Crumrine inserted "keyword" answers in the test to monitor cheating. One test applicant gave answers verbatim to the department answer sheet. When confronted, the applicant acknowledged that Phillips had helped her prepare for the test and had been at her house the night before the exam. She denied, however, that she was given the answers. Phillips also denied giving her the test answers.

The commission, however, found that reasonable grounds existed to conclude that Phillips did share the test answers. Phillips said yesterday that although he helped the officer, his aid did not improve her test results.

Frazier then received information that Phillips may have also compromised a civil service test for lieutenants. The department concluded that the unfounded allegation grew from Phillips being observed meeting with three African-American sergeants who scored well on the test.

Phillips took a polygraph test that showed deception when asked about the detectives test and civil service exam. The department ended the investigation when he retired. The department told the commission that neither race nor retaliation was a motivating factor in Phillips' exit and said the allegations against him would have been proven had he not retired. The department erred in its treatment of Phillips because three white lieutenants and an Asian lieutenant had been involved in administering the oral portion of the civil service test but were not similarly polygraphed or asked to leave the department, the commission concluded.

The officer Phillips allegedly helped was not disciplined. "It is clear that the investigation into [Phillips] was aggressive," the commission concluded.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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