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Official Frank Serpico Blog
Friday, September 24, 2004
Bias against Minority Cops Costs City $20M
By Carl Campanile
NY Post, September 23, 2004

The city has agreed to pay up to $20 million to settle a class-action suit charging that the NYPD discriminated against minority officers in its hiring and employment practices, The Post has learned. Manhattan federal Judge Lewis Kaplan just approved the terms of the settlement following four years of fitful negotiations. "It is my hope that this settlement will play some small part in making New York's Finest even finer," Kaplan said in a Sept. 10 hearing, according to new court papers. Under the deal, 1,199 Latino and black officers who filed discrimination claims through last year are eligible for compensation. The federal suit - initiated in 1999 by the Latino Officers Association - alleged that the NYPD subjected Latino and African American officers to "disparate" disciplinary treatment, a "hostile work environment" and retaliation for filing complaints of discrimination. The court in January assigned two special masters to prod the parties to reach a settlement. Plaintiffs lawyer Richard Levy called the settlement "terrific" and "hopefully a new day for minority officers in the police department." "It took five years of litigation and discovery to find out what goes on in the Police Department as to the treatment of minorities. At the end of the day, the city decided to settle and put up $20 million to pay people discriminated against," Levy added. He asserted there was a pattern of minority officers being punished more severely - or fired more often - than whites charged with the same infractions in disciplinary cases. As part of the settlement, the city, while not admitting to wrongdoing, said it had instituted changes to personnel to "eliminate discrimination in the workplace." With 1,199 cops eligible, each could receive as much as $16,500. But city officials believe the $20 million figure was based on projections of a larger number of officers being compensated - and insist the payout will be smaller. There are about 17,000 minority officers in the NYPD, and all were eligible to join the suit. In the agreement, the city also promised more transparent record keeping regarding minority officers. The suit, filed during the more racially charged administration of Rudy Giuliani, was also a blow to the city as it struggles to recruit more minorities to police, fire and other uniformed forces. "This settlement furthers the city's progressive goal of resolving claims fairly and expeditiously through mediation or with a special master, rather than engaging in the unnecessary expense and delay of protracted jury trials," said city Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo. Cardozo called the settlement "fair and reasonable," adding, "We share the judge's hope that this will make `New York's Finest even finer.'" http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/19650.htm >

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