Five police officers file suit against MPD

The officers claim to have witnessed racial discrimination within the police department.

Five black Minneapolis police officers filed a federal suit Monday against the city of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Department and Police Chief Tim Dolan for six counts of racial discrimination, according to a lengthy civil complaint.

Each had allegedly witnessed discrimination in the treatment, assignment, disciplinary practices and promotion of black officers according to the complaint filed by Lt. Medaria Arradondo, Lt. Donald Harris, Lt. Lee Edwards, Sgt. Charles Adams and Sgt. Dennis Hamilton.

The five accusing officers have spent at least 18 years with the police department, according to the complaint.

Comments from those involved in the case were hard to come by Monday. Minneapolis Police Department Spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the department wasn’t commenting on the case.

“It is inappropriate for me to comment on this pending lawsuit,” Dolan said in a written statement. “However, I want to reiterate my personal commitment to building and retaining a diverse police force.”

John Klassen, an attorney representing the officers, said “we believe (the complaint) speaks for itself,” adding that neither Andrew Muller, a second attorney representing the officers, nor the officers, were granting interviews Monday.

Garcia, however, did say that Adams was unappointed, not demoted from his rank.

“That might just be a matter of semantics,” he said.

In late November, Adams was transferred from the homicide investigations unit to a “less prominent” investigation position for alleged insubordination, according to the complaint.

Adams’ partner, who is white, engaged in similar conduct, according to the complaint, but was not disciplined.

The complaint alleges while the city has a “long history” of discrimination against black officers, the actions have grown “more severe, pervasive, systematic and institutionalized” since Dolan’s appointment as police chief.

Every decision except one to demote officers, since Dolan’s tenure officially began in January 2007, has involved black members of the police department, according to the complaint.

As of mid-September, only one black officer was in an appointed or detailed position, which the complaint states are the highest-ranking and highest-paid positions.

The lone black officer in that position, Deputy Chief Valerie Wurster, appointed under former Police Chief William McManus, will retire within the next “several months,” according to the complaint.

Upon Wurster’s retirement, the complaint states Minneapolis will have an all-white police command.

Dolan has fired, demoted or transferred every black male officer holding the position of captain, inspector or higher rank, and come early 2008, there will be no nonwhite officers above the rank of lieutenant, according to the complaint.