Three black police officers and their attorney have accused the Banning Police Department of "unprecedented levels of discrimination against African-Americans."
The City Council on Tuesday approved a $25,000 increase in funds for the department's Internal Affairs investigators to probe the officers' complaints, which were detailed in an April 11 letter to City Manager Andy Takata.
Former Banning officers Marcus Futch and Greg Herrington, and current Banning officer Allen Eley have hired Attorney Rupert Byrdsong of Los Angeles. Futch was fired by Banning PD in 2010, Herrington was fired by Banning PD in 2009, and Eley is on administrative leave for a pending Internal Affairs investigation.
"Systematically, all of the African-American police officers have been either terminated or placed on administrative leave for alleged violations of policy," Byrdsong said in his letter to Takata.
"The problematic issue with the BPD is that it treats white officers more favorably than the African-American officers," Byrdsong said. "Indeed, the BPD has an institutionalized philosophy to punish African-American officers for manufactured or trumped-up infractions while allowing white officers to repeatedly commit egregious acts with impunity in violation of both BPD policy and California law."
Futch, Herrington and Eley are willing to settle with the city on three conditions, according to Byrdsong. They include:
- A department-wide investigation of disciplinary actions taken against black officers and white officers for the same or related policy violations, as well as unequal pay, unfair promotion practices, and other discriminatory treatment of minorities.
- $1.5 million for each officer for discriminatory treatment, lost wages, damage to reputation and emotional distress.
- An apology from city officials for treatment the officers received and for the "failure to intervene knowing that wholesale discrimination was taking place" at the police department.
Banning Police Chief Leonard Purvis denied the allegations and said discrimination of any kind is not tolerated at the Banning Police Department.
"When I came here six years ago there was not a lot of diversity," Purvis said Thursday. "Since then we've hired women, Hispanic and African American officers.
"But we've had reports of misconduct that came from outside the department on these three employees," Purvis said. "We're obligated to investigate allegations of misconduct and we did.
"I can't go into specifics," Purvis said. "The attorney's letter does not present the whole picture, unfortunately."
The department has terminated eight police officers in the past six years, Purvis said. The fired officers were white, black and Hispanic, he said. In addition, two lieutenants and one sergeant, all white, have been demoted, Purvis said.
There are no sworn black officers currently working at Banning PD, Purvis said. The department's lead records specialist, a civilian position, is an African-American woman, Purvis said.
Takata said the accusations brought by Futch, Herrington and Eley will be taken seriously.
"Obviously the city does not tolerate any type of discrimination and the city intends to investigate the allegations in Mr. Byrdsong's letter," Takata said Thursday. "Beyond that, I can't comment due to the possibility of litigation."
Byrdsong's seven-page letter to Takata describes the law enforcement careers of Futch, Herrington and Eley in detail, and includes their numerous commendations, promotions and qualifications.
The letter does not mention that Herrington was dismissed by the Glynn County Police Department in Georgia in 1996.
According to Glynn County records, Herrington asked to be allowed to resign rather than have the dismissal on his record, and county commissioners eventually agreed - provided Herrington sign an agreement that his resignation "not preclude the County from advising any potential employer of the conditions surrounding his departure from County employment, and that he agrees not to file suit against the County."
Herrington could not be reached to comment for this report.