Lawsuit Says Chief “Purged” MPD of Black Officers
In May, The Washington Times reported that Commander Hilton Burton and three other officials had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming Lanier treats female officers better than male officers.
Now Burton's civil complaint, which doesn't involve any of his coworkers and was filed a week ago, says Lanier doesn't just discriminate against fellas:
Shortly after taking over as Chief of Police, Chief Lanier commenced a purge of senior African-American career officers on the force. This whitening of the force was also replicated in specialty operations where members were transferred to regular patrol and were replaced by experienced non-minority members.
The suit says that Lanier demoted Burton to inspector "without cause" in 2008. Burton has since been promoted to commander again, but believes he was "deprived of tens of thousands of [dollars] of lost pay, leave and longevity" while he was an inspector.
Burton's lawyer, E. Scott Frison says that under Lanier, high-ranking black male officers are being drummed out of positions. "There's a trend there that we can't explain," says Frison. But the lawyer was unable to immediately produce statistics to support the claim.
Though Burton was reportedly demoted for sending lurid emails to a woman from his MPD computer, Frison says he was innocent. "The chief has a tendency to take actions based on allegations," he says.
MPD officials didn't respond to a request for comment.
Burton just so happens to be the head of an MPD division that's been under fire of late. The division gave police escorts to celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Jay-Z against police policy. A document obtained by City Desk shows Burton signed a form approving Sheen's ride. Frison says he's spoken to his client about the escorts and that Burton said Lanier allowed the practice.
Lawsuits that challenge the gender and race dynamics of the department are an indispensable tool; Lanier herself sued the department for sexual harassment in 1995. But if Lanier isn't fond of black male officers, MPD's demographics don't indicate that. Though the percentage has slowly been decreasing since the late 1990s, the majority of the force is black and male.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery