Four former and current African-American Annapolis police officers have filed a federal racial-discrimination lawsuit against the city, claiming that they were unfairly treated, subjected to harassment, wrongly turned down for promotions and, for two of them, given walking papers.
"African-American officers in the Annapolis police department are subjected to unequal treatment," claims the lawsuit, which was filed this month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
It also claims that the black officers were singled out for harsher discipline than white colleagues. The three former officers and one current officer who sued exhausted their administrative options before turning to the court, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says that two of the officers, Shelley C. White Jr. and Carl Bouie, both 20-year veterans of the department, were terminated in recent months; that James Spearman Jr. is still working there; and that Floyd Carson Jr. medically retired in 2011 after an injury. None of them could be reached for comment.
"The complaint has not been served on the city at this time," Assistant City Manager Virginia Burke said in an email, "so we can't comment."
A police spokeswoman said Chief Michael A. Pristoop had not received the complaint and wouldn't speak about pending litigation.
The city has 26 African-American police officers on its 117-member force, according to department figures.
The lawsuit also alleges that only one African-American officer is in management; according to figures supplied by the department for current supervisory jobs, one captain, four sergeants and one corporal are African-American.
The four officers are asking the court to order the city to end what they call prejudicial practices and to award them unspecified damages, including punitive damages.
The lawsuit claims that after White and Bouie complained of disparate treatment, they were unfairly punished over minor issues, then fired.
Spearman, a 27-year veteran of the department, contends that he was anonymously accused of dereliction in duty and then asked by Pristoop about pending complaints; when he then filed an administrative complaint about discrimination, he was harassed, the lawsuit alleges.
Carson contends that he was mistreated when he was on light duty while recovering from an injury, according to the allegations.