Black Detectives in New York Were Bypassed for Promotions, Panel Finds

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found last year that the promotions process systematically stymied black detectives in the Intelligence Division, leaving them with less pay, power and prestige than their similarly qualified white counterparts. The commission, which enforces discrimination laws, ruled that a “wholly subjective and secret process” caused black detectives to receive “lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.”

But those findings, which have not previously been made public, failed to invigorate efforts within the department to fix a promotions process some police officials have conceded in sworn testimony is opaque and frustrating.

The Justice Department, which has retreated from police oversight under President Trump, said in June that it would not sue the New York Police Department over the findings. That averted a high-profile confrontation with the nation’s largest police force for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said federal interventions in local policing are bad for morale.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan said in a statement that the decision was made “on the merits” by federal prosecutors in New York. Civil rights lawyers said it put added pressure on New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, to push to make detective promotions fairer. The detectives plan to sue the department in the coming days.

Roland Stephens, 55, who retired this summer after 26 years in the Police Department and a dozen years in the rap unit, said he was ashamed when white colleagues who had leapt ahead of him in promotions asked what grade he had achieved.

Photo

Sara Francisco-Coleman at the grave of her husband, Detective Theodore Coleman, who the complaint says watched white colleagues at the Intelligence Division whom he had trained get promoted before him.

Credit
Harrison Hill for The New York Times

“You’re almost embarrassed to talk about it,” he said. “It looks like you’re doing something wrong, it looks like you’re a bad guy, or you’re a bad seed.” But, he added, “in reality, you’re being held back by no fault of your own.”

The commission, after analyzing roughly 75 detectives promoted from third grade to second grade in the Intelligence Division over a seven-year period, found that black detectives on average served at the…

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