In late October, the Columbus, Ohio City Council voted in approval of a $475,000 payment to a Columbus Division of Police (CDP) officer who claimed there was a culture of discrimination in the department, and that he faced retaliation after speaking out against a white sergeant’s racism.
Karl Shaw, a 28-year veteran of the department, filed the discrimination lawsuit in 2018, alleging that a white Sgt. Eric Moore, had used a racial slur to describe two Black officers in 2014, and had threatened to kill them. The suit alleges a “pattern, practice and policy of discriminatory treatment of minority officers.”
Shaw said he had experienced racism in the department since he first joined in 1992.
“I stood up because it’s wrong, and it’s not about the money,” Shaw said, according to ABC6. “This whole process was stressful. You stay up at night, not sleeping, thinking about this case. This case could’ve been solved if the chain of command would’ve allowed the internal affairs investigator to do his job.”
Shaw demanded that discrimination become a fireable offense in the department, and said he would not have accepted the settlement without the policy change.
The department is also facing several other lawsuits filed by current or former Black officers, who say they faced discrimination while working in the division.
Eric Cornett, a 23-year veteran of the department, who has filed a suit against the city of Columbus, claims he is one of the Black officers who was threatened by Moore in 2014.
Moore is accused of saying “I need to take their monkey asses out back and kill them,” in reference to Cornett and another Black officer, Sgt. Douglas Williams.
Shaw said he filed a complaint with internal affairs, which would not investigate the allegations of discrimination.
Shaw’s suit alleges that Moore was angry that he and another Black officer were applying for an open narcotics job supervised by Moore. According to the suit, Moore sent a text saying the two officers “better not take the jobs,” after learning that Shaw was cooperating with internal affairs.
Shaw turned down the position, in fear of retribution from the sergeant.
A lawyer for Shaw, Fred Gittes, said, “The chain of command did nothing. They knew everything you heard about and more. They knew about the racist epithets. They knew about the threats of violence.”
Cornett felt unsafe after learning of the threats, and ultimately sold his home undervalue, moved 650 miles away to South Carolina, and forfeited his pension, although he was just two years away from eligibility for the full amount.
“I’m receiving death threats by a young man who has everything he needs to ‘take care’ of me,” he told CNN.
Even after moving, he continued to feel unsafe and installed cameras outside of his home.
Moore was fired for misusing equipment, using derogatory body language and for deceiving investigators, but was reinstated after two years and remains employed by the department.
More than half of CPD officers have faced discrimination at some point, a 2015 review found.
“If you treat your own Black officers this way, what are you doing to the Black citizens?” Shaw said. “I can’t imagine what some of the citizens go through.”
The department has faced steady criticism for its treatment of Black residents. The division faced scrutiny for fatally shooting 13-year-old Tyre King and 23-year-old Henry Green in two separate 2016 incidents, and for responding forcefully to protests over the summer.
Statistics show that, in 2018, 55 percent of the department’s use-of-force incidents involved Black people, although just 29 percent of the Columbus community is Black.
Shaw plans to retire from the department in May.