City police target of bias claim inquiries

Justice Department probes alleged discrimination against black officers

April 04, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating claims by 17 African-American officers and former officers that they were discriminated against by Baltimore police in the 1990s, officials said yesterday.

In a letter sent by fax to city police yesterday, the Justice Department said it is seeking information about the cases of possible discrimination, police officials said.

Sean R. Malone, who heads the department's legal affairs office, said he welcomed the investigation, which stems from complaints the officers lodged with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"We look forward to sitting down and doing this," Malone said. "I'm pretty confident that this will turn out OK for the department."

Justice Department officials in Washington did not respond to requests for comments. Malone described the letter's contents but did not furnish a copy of it to reporters.

Malone played down the significance of the investigation, saying it dealt with specific officers and was not a full-scale probe into the department.

He said the officers were fired or punished for legitimate reasons that had nothing to do with race. Malone also said the department has significantly boosted its number of minority officers and fixed a troubled disciplinary system that the EEOC said in a 1998 report was unfair to blacks.

One of the officers who filed EEOC complaints that spurred the investigation said the probe would be wide-ranging and will show the department has not done enough for minorities.

"This is good news for African-American officers as it relates to seeking redress for past and present issues dealing with race discrimination and retaliation," said Officer Louis H. Hopson Jr., who has long complained about racism in the department.

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