Complaints from within the New York Police Department suggest the nation’s largest law enforcement agency could have a problem with racial discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed last week, three African-American men accused the NYPD’s intelligence division of discriminating against them.
The complaint, as reported by The New York Times, hearkens back to a 2016 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Last year, the EEOC condemned “a wholly subjective and secret” promotion pathway which led to black officers being promoted less quickly than their similarly-qualified but Caucasian counterparts.
The New York Police Department – perhaps not surprisingly – contests the charges brought on by the latest suit. Nevertheless, the Times’ editorial board sought to explain in a recent article how the promotion process within the agency manages to be less-than-ideal despite being branded as a meritocracy.
Officers seeking to become sergeants, writes the editorial board, have to pass a series of exams before being allowed higher up the law enforcement ladder.
However, the ultimate decision on who gets which promotion is left up to supervisors, who pass on a list of names up to the department brass. Explanations about who gets selected – and whose applications are discarded – are rarely given in full.
The three African-American officers who filed the suit say that they’ve been working with the Intelligence Division since 2001.
They say that, regardless of their qualifications and on-the-job experience, they’ve been repeatedly passed over for promotion. According to them, several of their immediate supervisors said their chances of advancement would have been higher had they been white.
That particular claim came from Roland Stephens, who recently retired after serving 26 years with the NYPD.
Stephens had, by all accounts, been an exemplary officer – he scored well on written exams, and received recommendations for promotion from his superiors.
Nevertheless, Stephens claims in court documents, he wasn’t allowed to ascend to a higher rank, even as he saw less-qualified white detectives winning promotions.
The EEOC found, after examining seven years of the intelligence division’s records, that black detectives spent, on average, two years longer than whites on the department’s lowest rung before promotions opened.