In the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division, one unit was filled almost exclusively by black detectives. The “rap unit,” as it was called, had a peripheral role in a division focused on recruiting Muslim informants and building terrorism cases. Black detectives went undercover at hip-hop concerts, protected artists from scammers and stickup men and warned venues of potential feuds, reports the New York Times. But the “rap unit” was known to stall careers: Black detectives did not get promoted for years, no matter how good their recommendations, charged a complaint filed by three black detectives with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For years, the complaint says, there was only one promotion in the unit, and it was given to a white detective, one of a very few assigned there. Current and retired detectives said a patronage system promoted detectives based more on connections to powerful bosses, and less on their work, fueling bitterness and accusations of nepotism.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found last year that the promotions process systematically stymied black detectives, leaving them with less pay, power and prestige than their white counterparts. The commission ruled that a “wholly subjective and secret process” caused black detectives to receive “lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.” Those findings failed to prompt fixes in a promotions process some police officials have conceded is opaque and frustrating. The Justice Department said it would not sue the department over the findings. That averted a confrontation with the nation’s largest police force for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said federal interventions in local policing are bad for morale. The detectives plan to sue the department. The deputy police commissioner for legal matters, Lawrence Byrne, disputed the EEOC findings, calling it “a largely incompetent agency.”