By Charles Brooks
Originally published: 09-28-1999
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – While the New York Police Department (NYPD) attempts to maneuver itself around the number of pending investigations looking into police brutality and misconduct charges, it’s been hit with a lawsuit which highlights the discriminatory practices within their disciplinary process. The Latino Officers Association has filed a federal lawsuit against NYPD, charging the department disproportionately disciplines officers of color more harshly than their white counterparts.
“There’s been a number of hearings and reports over the years, but none has been willing to take on the NYPD because of the politics, the way they are, they were left with no options. We’re filing this lawsuit because minority officers are systemically discriminated against during disciplinary procedures,” Sergeant Tony Miranda, of the Latino Officers Association told The Final Call. “We’re looking to create a change in the NYPD by bringing forth an array of cases involving Blacks and Latinos which proves discrimination.”
“The NYPD doesn’t comment on the merits of a case pending litigation but I will say that it’s well known that the Latino Officers Association has filed numerous suits against the city and the department. It’s a group that has a political agenda, primarily interested in media attention,” said department spokesperson Marilyn Mode.
According to Mr. Miranda, Hiram Monseratte, Latino Officers Association second vice president, was transferred within hours of their announcing the lawsuit. “There’s been ongoing investigations against the leadership of our organization, including the surveillance of our general membership meetings,” Mr. Miranda maintains.
The New York police department has an internal process to discipline their officers. Called the administrative trial room, there are three deputy commissioners who act as judges. They recommend a penalty to the police commissioner before a final decision is reached. Police officer Rafael Collazo said there are unfair practices in the administrative trials and hearings when it comes to non-whites. He describes a racist and politically influenced atmosphere, which has permeated the disciplinary process.
“It’s used as a tool to intimidate and terminate fellow officers who wish to report any incidents of police brutality, misconduct or other criminal wrongdoing in the precinct. As a result, the process doesn’t breed any confidence and actually lowers morale amongst the officers, Black, white, or Latino,” Mr. Collazo explains.
Sgt. Eric Adams, of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, says its a major issue. “They’re (NYPD) very quick when it comes to disciplining Latino and Black officers but they don’t use their disciplinary powers to go after the criminal element (in the department). They reserve that power on those who speak out on the criminal wrong doings occurring within the department. They don’t go after the Justin Volpe’s or the Francis Livoti’s. They go after someone like Ivette Walton and terminate her from the department because she testified about Street Crime Unit activities.”
The Latino Officers Association contends white officers are routinely slapped on the wrists, while non-white officers are afforded harsher disciplinary action resulting in loss of vacation time or in some cases, firing. Several officers spoke of a double standard between white officers and officers of color. They want the administrative trial room to be eliminated and the proceedings to be conducted in the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) instead.
“It’s their belief that police officers are more likely to get a fairer trial because of its independence from the internal confines of the police department as well as its public forum. Consequently, more officers will come forward and report criminal wrong doings without the fear of retribution usually in the form of bogus charges from NYPD officials,” said Mr. Miranda. “We’re seeking structural changes in disciplinary hearings not just for minority officers but to serve all officers. The current system must be eliminated because NYPD’s position is that these are only isolated incidents. But if you have someone independent evaluating and reviewing the data, the facts will bear out and prove these are not just isolated incidents.”