Twenty-one African-American current and former Baltimore police officers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging long-running and rampant discrimination within the Baltimore Police Department, reports the Baltimore Sun. The suit accuses the department of condoning a hostile workplace, blocking black officers from promotion, levying uneven discipline and retaliating against officers who spoke out against discrimination. It alleges that racism led to the firing last month of police Commissioner Kevin Clark. The officers seeks the appointment of an independent monitor over department discipline, reinstatement of fired officers, expunging of black marks from the disciplinary records of certain officers, payment of lost wages to plaintiffs who were suspended without pay or fired because of racism, and punitive damages and compensation. City Solicitor Ralph Tyler called the allegations “untrue” and said many are barred by statutes of limitations.
Mayor Martin O’Malley fired Clark last month, saying domestic abuse allegations against the commissioner, though unsubstantiated, had eroded his leadership ability. Clark, who is not a plaintiff in the suit, has filed a separate action against O’Malley. City officials said that since O’Malley took office in 1999, the percentage of African-Americans has grown in several areas of the force. The number of sworn officers is up to 43 percent from 38 percent. The sergeants are now 42 percent black, compared with 25 percent five years ago, and the lieutenant ranks are 25 percent compared with 13 percent in 1999. The lawsuit says that black officers have found dog feces wrapped in an African-American newspaper and placed on their desks, endured racial epithets, had hangman’s nooses placed in their lockers, and had zebra stripes painted on pictures of their mixed-race children.