Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two Non-White APD Detectives File Suit Against Municipality Of Anchorage Alleging "Systemic Racism" And "Patterns Of Discrimination"

Update July 1st: Additional community reaction noted and discussed in this newer post.

Two veteran non-White Anchorage Police Department (APD) detectives have filed a lawsuit against the Municipality of Anchorage, alleging racial discrimination within the APD. Read full story in the Anchorage Daily News; additional reports filed by KTUU Channel 2 and KTVA Channel 11. Preliminary editorial reaction posted by the Anchorage Daily Planet; while they view the charges as serious, they urge the city to hold firm and NOT SETTLE out of court. There's also an entry in the Alaska Court View database:

-- Case Number 3AN-10-08665CI under Alvin Kennedy's name HERE.

Both detectives have been with APD for 20 years. Detectives Alvin Kennedy, who is Black, and Eliezer Feliciano, who is Hispanic, allege that there is systemic racism within the Anchorage Police Department. This includes "sanctioned racial profiling, disparate treatment of minority officers, and the condoning of constitutional violations by White officers against minorities." They claim the pattern of discrimination dates back to the 1980s. Both were the most senior undercover detectives in the now-disbanded Metro Drug Unit when some of the incidents alleged in the lawsuit happened.

The dissolution of the Metro Drug Unit, which took place on September 30th, 2009, has been a bone of racial contention in the past. Several of its members claimed that the unit was dismantled because of racial discrimination. The individual members were re-deployed into other units, but the infamous local NAACP czar Rev. Dr. William Greene claimed that APD found the Drug Unit "too diverse" and wanted to spread the officers out into "Caucasian units."

Ed. Note: Interesting how, although this "discrimination" dates back to the 1980s, that it didn't deter the two from hiring on with APD in the first place, and didn't prevent them from completing 20 years of service. Also interesting how these two officers waited until their 20-year retirement was safely in the bag before making these allegations.

KTUU has now made the suit documents available HERE. From the documents, we find out the specific factual alllegations and desired remedies (after the jump):

Factual Allegations:

(1). Profiled Traffic Stops: On two occasions, Kennedy and a different detective, Leonard Torres, who is Hispanic, say they were pulled over by fellow patrol officers during traffic stops while they were working undercover. When the detectives showed police credentials and explained their job duty, the patrol officers continued to ask more questions and ask for identification, a practice they say continues even today.

(2). Disparate Discipline: They cite a case in April 2009 where a Black and a Hispanic detective seized drugs during a search they say was determined to be unlawful by former APD Captain Gardner Cobb even though an Assistant District Attorney said the seizure was legal and correct. The two detectives received punitive action as discipline but their direct white supervisors who praised the detectives for that same search where not disciplined.

(3). Hostile Remarks And Hostile Actions Against Minority Undercover Officers Because Of The Way They Dress While Working Undercover

(4). Violation Of Collective Bargaining Unit: The dissolution of the Metro Drug Unit is viewed as a violation of the collective bargaining agreement because it was done without input from APDEA.

(5). Discrimination Against Detectives Kennedy And Feliciano In Denying Them Performance Pay Raises: They allege that although they spent much time training other officers, they were denied performance bonuses while White detectives who spent much less time training other officers were awarded bonuses.

(6). Others Who Have Advocated For Detectives Kennedy And Feliciano Have Been Chastised And Threatened With Adverse Consequences

(7). Promotion: They allege that non-White officers are promoted at a lower rate than White officers.

Desired Remedies:

(1). A finding that discriminatory conduct did in fact occur.

(2). Plaintiffs are entitled to damages in excess of $100,000 for the conduct of the defendant.

(3). Plaintiffs are entitled to damages for the defendant's breach of the contract.

(4). That the Court grant the equitable relief that it deems just.

(5). Award Plaintiffs their costs, interests, and attorney fees.

(6). For such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

Reaction: The Municipality of Anchorage has now released the following statement:

The Municipality of Anchorage will continue to cultivate a working environment for municipal employees free from unlawful discrimination. Allegations regarding racial discrimination are addressed through a variety of mechanisms, including federal and state law, municipal code, and municipal policies and procedures. The Municipality currently provides employees with several methods to address discrimination concerns, including providing for employee redress through the Office of Equal Opportunity, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, and grievance or arbitration procedures. The Municipality also works with local groups to assist it in dealing with issues regarding discrimination, including a longstanding working relationship with the Anchorage Community Police Relations Task Force and Bridge Builders.

While each and every allegation in the complaint will be more fully addressed after the Municipality has had an opportunity to determine whether any of the allegations are valid,
municipal officials can say that many of the allegations were already addressed by agencies tasked with investigating discrimination claims and were found to be without merit.

Mayor Sullivan said, “My administration will work closely with APD to review this issue. While the majority of these allegations predate my and Chief Mew’s tenure in office, we as municipal officials remain committed to a positive work environment for all employees. Claims of racism are serious, and we will make sure they are thoroughly investigated.”

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew has also reacted. In a press conference, Mew said that APD does not tolerate racism, and that most of the lawsuit's allegations, which included claims of racial profiling, are things that APD has already dealt with and they have been found to be without merit.

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