Black Detectives Allege Racial Discrimination In New Lawsuit Against NYPD

Black detectives were relegated to a so-called "rap-unit."

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Black Detectives Sue
Black detectives said less-experienced white detectives were promoted before them. (Image courtesy of Flikr)

A group of Black detectives are suing the NYPD over claims they were denied rightful promotions in an elite intelligence unit because of their race.

In class action lawsuit filed on Monday, Sept. 25, retired detectives Jon McCollum, Roland Stephens and the family of Theodore Coleman claim the unit’s head honchos systematically discriminated against them by passing them up for promotions in favor of less-experienced white detectives, according to The New York Daily News.

All three contributed more than two decades of service, had exemplary records and received department honors but were never granted a promotion.

“I did everything I could to get promoted,” McCollum, 50, told the newspaper. “I watched countless white detectives from my class move up in rank, but not me. Multiple supervisors told me if I were white I would have been promoted.”

“When I asked why I’m not being promoted, For the first five or six years, they just said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” he added.

McCollum ultimately retired in 2016, after serving 24 years as a police officer.

He wasn’t the only one with complaints and accusations that his lack of promotion was racially motivated. Det. Stephens and Sara Coleman, the wife of late Det. Coleman also claim race was a factor in the department’s promotion system. Both are represented by Emery Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“My husband Theo Coleman joined the NYPD to make a difference,” Sara Coleman said. “His love of the job turned to disappointment and embarrassment when he realized his work would not be recognized because of his race.”

In their lawsuit, the trio also said they were pigeon-holed while others were left stuck in the so-called “rap unit,” which investigated hip-hop musicians. Stephens said no one was promoted from the unit except for one white detective who was promoted shortly after coming on board.

An article published by The New York Law Journal this week showed that the plaintiffs filed a separate complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, alleging that the department had violated their civil rights. In it, they highlighted the fact that Blacks comprised 18 percent of the NYPD force and 16 percent of all detectives yet only made up 6 percent of all personnel and 7 percent of detectives in the intelligence unit.

Moreover, the EEOC complaint claimed that most of the Black detectives in the elite unit were of the lowest third-grade status.

The NYPD said it was aware of the allegations for several years and turned over its promotion criteria to the Justice Department following the plaintiffs’ EEOC complaint. The DOJ later decided to drop their case

“A review of a recent 10-year period, which includes the time frame of this litigation, shows that black third-grade detectives within the Intelligence Bureau were promoted at a faster pace than their colleagues,” said Peter Donald, NYPD assistant commissioner.

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