Thursday, January 10, 2008

Black officers, city officials await verdict in discrimination case

You would expect this story out of a big city such as Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles but guess again. This story is out of Sprinfield, Illinois the state capitol. From the State Journal Register and you might have to scroll down to find the story...
A federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the city of Springfield by two black ex-police officers was sent to the jury today.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours before going home for the night at 7 p.m. They are scheduled to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday.

In closing arguments earlier, the attorney for former police lieutenants Rickey Davis and Lea Joy p asked jurors to send a message to city leaders that “they should be color blind.”

Davis and Joy say in the suit they were retaliated against for speaking out on racial issues and for speaking on behalf of former police officer Renatta Frazier. Joy has another claim alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment.

Shari Rhode, who represents he officers along with Zoe Newton, outlined to jurors five nstances where Davis believes he spoke out about racial issues in the department and then either was reassigned, was refused requests to be transferred to the investigations division, or disciplined in other ways.

After Joy she spoke out on Frazier's behalf in 200, Rhode said, she was moved from being a lieutenant in internal affairs to patrol.

Rhode reminded jurors of several comments Joy said were made about her or to her. Joy testified earlier she heard she had been referred to as an “African ----“ and that another officer once made a comment to her about leaving “chicken grease” on the steering wheel of a shared vehicle.

“You don't have to find if there is racism in the Springfield Police Department," Rhode said. "You heard lots of people admit it." She showed jurors a clip of former Mayor Karen Hasara at a November 2002 city council meeting at which Hasara said, “There is racism in the department.”

Frank Martinez, who is defending the city along with Jim Lang, told jurors the city can't be found responsible because the incidents were never reported to them. If the officers had complained, he said, the city could have investigated the claims or changed the department's behavior.

“You can't say the city of Springfield was retaliating against them and not bring (the problems) to our attention. ... How does change get affected if they never filed a complaint?” he said.

“If you want it corrected, you have to tell us the problems are occurring.”

Martinez also argued Davis' job assignments were changed because of training issues in the department and that Davis was disciplined because he deserved it.

“Rhode said this should be a color-blind society,” Martinez said. “He was treated like anyone else, the same way as any white officer.”

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