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‘We are incensed and embarrassed at having to deal with these same systemic issues of discrimination against African American officers in our own U.S. Capitol Police force, now in the 21st century.’
Congressional Black Caucus Letter to U.S. Capitol Police Board and Chief
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – When the Black U.S. Capitol Police filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Government in 2001, they expected to get justice. What they say they’ve gotten is retaliation and they’re threatening a second class action suit.
The officers took their case to Capitol Hill July 30 for a press conference alleging the Capitol Police department’s pattern of filing excessive and unfounded disciplinary charges against prominent members of the class action, as well as a pattern of harassment, including exclusion of class members from the U.S. Capitol Complex and a series of auto tampering, break-ins and vandalism of class members’ automobiles.
“We suspect that such conduct by the department smacks of retaliation against the class members and is designed to undermine the momentum of current settlement negotiations,” class attorney Nathaniel D. Johnson told The Final Call.
In January, the government decided that it wanted to settle the original class action suit, Blackmon-Malloy v. United States Capitol Police Board. Meetings were scheduled to begin negotiations but have since stalled.
“The other side is not negotiating in good faith. Members of the class are being subjected to retaliatory conduct, including disproportionate punishment and discipline. Accordingly, we strongly believe that anyone initiating these frivolous and false charges should be held accountable and disciplined. We want the retaliatory conduct stopped,” said Mr. Johnson.
“We feel the managers are trying to stop the drive of the settlement negotiations. We want institutional reforms put in place, but there is a cadre of officers who want things to stay the same.”
Chief Terrance W. Gainer of the Capitol Police was unavailable for comment.
Officer Larry A. Ikard, a member of the class action, spoke on behalf of the 358 Black members of the Capitol force.
“When will someone become accountable for the blatant acts of discrimination the African American officers have had to endure throughout our tenure? How can we be responsible for egregious acts committed against us?” he asked.
He told the audience about training opportunities he was denied and being subjected to a racially hostile work environment.
Officers Regina Bolden-Whitaker and Arnold Fields, also members of the class action suit, recently filed complaints with the Congressional Office of Compliance, challenging discriminatory and retaliatory disciplinary actions.
Officers Bolden-Whitaker and Fields will ask the Office of Compliance to consolidate and process their complaints as a class complaint on behalf of all Black officers subjected to discriminatory and retaliatory discipline within the past two years, in anticipation of a possible filing in U.S. District Court once the administrative process has been completed.
Both officers were issued Form CP-535 Requests for Disciplinary Action–a sanction that becomes part of an officer’s permanent record and can serve as the basis for termination for any future offense.
In Officer Bolden-Whitaker’s case, she refused to sign a form without being given an explanation of what she was signing. Officer Field allegedly was punished because, in a break room full of officers at lunch, he did not have his radio on, even though, he said, there is no clear requirement that officers keep their radios on while they are off duty during their uncompensated lunch breaks.
“Both officers now face possible future termination for these extremely petty charges brought by White commanders of the Capitol Police,” said attorney Charles Day, who is also working on the case.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) responded to the officers’ complaints with a letter June 26 to Chief Gainer and members of the U.S. Capitol Police Board.
“We are incensed and embarrassed at having to deal with these same systemic issues of discrimination against African American officers in our own U.S. Capitol Police force, now in the 21st century,” the letter stated.
“In these uncertain times of terrorism, concern over homeland security and crises abroad, these police officers are entrusted with the responsibility of guarding and protecting us as Members of Congress, our staff and the Capitol buildings and grounds, as well as our constituents who visit the Capitol.”
The letter, signed by the 39 members of the CBC, concluded by saying, “We strongly urge the Capitol Police Board to implement far-reaching non-monetary remedies and oversight measures to ensure that discrimination against the African American officers ceases and we fully support the complete monetary settlement proposed in the letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”