Monday, February 26, 2007

Hispanic cop was discriminated against because he was not black

Paul Egan:

A federal civil jury awarded a $254,000 verdict to an Hispanic lieutenant with the Inkster police Wednesday, ruling the department discriminated against him because he was not black.

Thomas Diaz sued the city in 2005, alleging the department promoted less qualified black applicants ahead of him when he was passed over for promotions to commander in 2004, deputy chief in 2006 and chief in 2003.

"Naturally I'm very pleased," said a teary-eyed Diaz before embracing his lawyer, James Fett of Pinckney.

Fett said the verdict is bittersweet. "I'm delighted that my client prevailed and he's vindicated," Fett said. "There were a lot of nice people we were at war with. Tom still works there and it's been very stressful for everybody."

A development that Fett said had an impact on the jury was the city's agreement that Deputy Chief Gregory Hill testified falsely last week when he said under oath that he attended and obtained a degree from Western Michigan University. Hill could not be reached Wednesday.

Fett said both he and Diaz like and respect Inkster Police Chief Gregory Gaskin, who has held the top post since 2006.

Diaz, who was Inkster police command officer of the year in 2002, alleged that the city "promulgated and continued a policy of discriminating in employment against non-African-Americans."

An all-white jury agreed after deliberating for a day and a half. The weeklong trial was held before Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. The jury rejected Diaz's claim that the city retaliated against him for filing his lawsuit.

Gaskin could not be reached for comment; nor could the city's attorney, Michael Weaver.

The city denied in court pleadings that it favored blacks in promotions.

Fett, who has successfully litigated similar reverse discrimination lawsuits against the Michigan State Police and others, said Inkster's policy was unwritten but well-known.

It's the type of policy Proposal 2, which voters approved in November outlawing public sector affirmative action, was intended to prevent, he said.

Verdict confirms racism...but by city

Cop wins $250,000 verdict


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