Three white police officers allege racial bias in lawsuit

June 18, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Three white Baltimore police officers have filed suit against the Police Department, alleging racial discrimination because it failed to promote them to sergeant in favor of minority candidates who had lower scores on departmental exams.

The suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore follows a similar action filed in February by three white sergeants who claimed they were unfairly passed over for promotion to lieutenant.

Officers John F. Hess, James F. Gottschalk and Michael G. Stefanowitz are asking the court to order the city to promote each to sergeant and award them back pay and attorneys' fees. They also are asking for unspecified monetary damages.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, who became head of the department in 1994, has "engaged in a pattern or practice of skipping white males in order to promote minorities," according to the suit.

The department would not comment on the suit. "We don't comment on pending litigation of any sort," Agent Ragina L. Cooper said.

Black officers have repeatedly complained about racial discrimination in the department, particularly in the disciplinary process. Frazier has acknowledged historical discrimination in the department, but has said he has tried to address the problem by appointing more minorities in supervisory positions than any of his predecessors.

In their lawsuit, Hess, Gottschalk and Stefanowitz said they took the sergeants exam in 1996 and were placed on a list of those eligible for promotion in October of that year.

A year later, 48 officers were promoted to sergeant, according to the lawsuit. The first 44 of those were promoted in the order of their ranking, the suit says.

But Gottschalk, who ranked 45th, was skipped over in favor of a Hispanic officer who scored one place below him, the suit says. Stefanowitz and Hess, who ranked 47th and 48th, also were passed over and two black officers and a Korean officer who scored below them were promoted, the suit says.

The white officers filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year but were notified in March that the EEOC had found no violations of law and was dismissing the complaint, according to court papers.

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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