Details emerge on discrimiation suit filed by Cobb Police officers
by Lindsay Field
June 07, 2013 11:10 AM | 4080 views | 17 17 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Brown
James Brown
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Craig Owens
Craig Owens
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Two Cobb County Police officers are suing their department and its chief claiming they were not promoted from lieutenant to captain because of their race.

An attorney for Lieutenants James Brown and Craig Owens, both black, filed a federal lawsuit May 29. The county department and Chief John Houser are listed as defendants in the 26-page document.

“Imagine if in your job, you’re never allowed to have a promotion … your income is limited and also your potential for what you can actually do and your influence within your career can be limited,” said Atlanta attorney Ed Buckley, who represents both men.

The two veteran county officers make five claims in the suit, including denial of equal protection, race discrimination, retaliation, discrimination and retaliation in violation of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

The goal of the lawsuit is for the men to be promoted and be awarded damages as a result of the discrimination.

“They have lost pay and benefits because of this. We want them to be properly compensated,” Buckley said.

The amount of monetary damages would be up to the jurors.

County spokesman Robert Quigley declined to comment on pending litigation but did provide demographic details requested from the county police department.

Of Cobb Police’s 582 officers, 54 of them, or about 9 percent, are black. There are eight Asian officers, 14 Hispanic officers, four who have not identified themselves by race and 502 white officers.

Chief Houser’s command staff is made up of one Asian and seven white captains; one black and three white majors; and two white deputy chiefs.

The 2012 U.S. Census reports that Cobb County is 67 percent white, 26 percent black, 5 percent Asian and 2 percent “other.”

The lawsuit claims Owens and Brown were denied promotion to the rank of captain several times since they qualified and that the officers chosen to earn the promotion were all white.

The lawsuit specifically details six different situations where both officers were up for a promotion and a white officer was promoted, despite Owens and Brown having more education or training certificates.

The most recent opportunity for a promotion was in May when they both received the lowest internal review scores among the applicants but the highest external review scores.

“Our concern is also that the internal review is biased,” Buckley said.

Owens, who has been with Cobb Police since 1989, has a master’s degree in public administration, bachelor of science in criminal justice, graduate certificate in pre-command from the U.S. Army Command College and at least 10 criminal justice-related certifications.

Owens has also served on a number of units, including the Criminal Investigation Unit and the Special Operations Unit.

Buckley also argues in the lawsuit that Owens was denied a promotion when he was deployed in 2008 with the U.S. Army Reserves.

“While he was overseas, he learned that there would be a promotion in rank to captain,” Buckley said. “When he returned, he was simply told that he couldn’t be considered for (the promotion) because of his deployment.”

That, Buckley goes on to argue, is in violation of the Re-employment Rights Act enacted in 1994 to protect the civilian employment of non-full-time military service members called to active duty.

Brown, who started with the Cobb department in 1988, has experience in the Driving Under the Influence Task Force, Criminal Investigations Unit, and Special Weapons and Tactical Unit among others.

“The conduct of Defendant in failing to promote plaintiffs on the basis of their race while promoting from other, less qualified white lieutenants with less education, experience, time with the Cobb County Police Department, time in rank as lieutenants and worse disciplinary backgrounds and fitness scores, violates plaintiffs’ right to the equal protection of the laws as granted by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit states.

Both men have also filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012.

A trial date has not been scheduled, but Buckley doesn’t anticipate the case being heard before a judge until next year.

 

Comments
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Ila
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June 07, 2013
This is a tough one. If these men had more education, more time with the department and better disciplinary records, the chief of police has a problem and these men have a legitimate complaint. It will be interesting to see if that is how the facts actually come out in court. I also have a major problem with any person who serves in the armed forces in the reserves being penalized for it. As stated, there are laws protecting people from that kind of treatment. We should be thanking them and not rejecting them because of their service. I don't believe in affirmative action in the 21st century. But if these men were more qualified, they should have been advanced. People in government must be color blind.
Oh Well!
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June 07, 2013
Most of you on this comments section are clueless. Since 2000 there has been three "Qualified" non whites on the Command Staff. Two African Americans were promoted to the Command Staff which is Captain and above. (One was a Captain prior to leaving and the other has been a Major for 11 years) The other was a female, a well respected Major recently retired. One of the three still remain. So in almost 13 years none of the non white Lieutenants have been qualified or not as qualified as the white male Lieutenants? Really?? Any reasonable person would question what the standards are and how are the promotions determined? All anyone wants and deserves is an even chance, regardless of sex or race.

By the way prior to 2000 the only person not a white male to serve on the Command Staff of the department was a female who rose to Deputy Chief. That's right between 1924 (when the department was formed) and 2000 only one non white male was qualified to serve in a Command Staff position. Guess no one was qualified then either!! As I stated in my first sentence most are clueless when they respond to this article.
Skid6
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June 07, 2013
I'm tired of all the racism against african-americans around here. If things don't get better, I may move back to new jersey next year if i can find a better job.
anonymous
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June 07, 2013
They should look into the fact that Owens doesn't even speak proper english, uses foul derogatory language to subordinate officers and quite frankly Brown's not even that good...
tired of it
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June 07, 2013
Craig you look so pissed in this photo, and james you look so happy. hmmmm. you are right their is more to being considered for a promotion and you are so right. What type of leaders are these two? do they supervise their subordinates equally? show favoritism to certain people? I do know this happens through out the county all the time. Just because a person is a supervisor does not mean they are any good at it. at the end of the day a good supervisor puts his or her personal feelings of the employee aside and makes decisions ONLY based on job performance but very few supervisors do this but yet they would say they do......
hmmmm..
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June 07, 2013
there's more to being considered for a promotion than paper qualifications. Attitude and respect of your peers means a lot.
Fed up!
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June 07, 2013
Really....and I suppose the officers who were promoted are well respected among their peers. Too funny!! The truth will come out. Compare the records.
Real Truth
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June 07, 2013
If that is the case then throw out most of the recent promotions made. Truth be known, the white officers at Cobb PD do not respect the majority of the promotions made and do not respect the persons promoted. They just put up with it when it is someone white.
Edsnell
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June 07, 2013
Bob8756 and Look and see, I agree that not everyone can or will get promoted, but I am curious as to what you two feel should happen if people with less qualifications than you continue to get promoted over you in a government setting (private sector jobs don't count). Should a person just quit and go somewhere else or make it known to the public about what is going on? Just curious as to both of your perspectives. Thanks.
Give it a rest...
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June 07, 2013
So much for "on your own merit"...

By the numbers, there's a lot more non-black who have been pass over also..

What's THEIR recourse?
give denial a rest
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June 07, 2013
In predominately black departments, whites file lawsuits too. It's called reverse discrimination. It gained popularity in the 70's. I bet you think that is OK. Here are a few landmark reverse discrimination cases, however, there are thousands nationwide.

McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co., Police Association of New Orleans v. City of New Orleans, Hopwood v. Texas, Harding v. Gray, Lucas v. Dole, Schafer v. Board of Public Education.

What other recourse does the white officer have when passed over, join the good old boys, which is something minorities can't do so you SUE.
For sure
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June 08, 2013
When 500 of the 580 plus are white, that is true, but when done on a percentile bases, it's the opposite. Either way it is wrong.
Bob8756
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June 07, 2013
There are hundreds of policemen who never get to be promoted to sergeant and never get to be promoted to lieutenant. Not everyone gets to be chief and just because your found wanting when it comes to further promotion that does not mean it was because you were black.
True however
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June 07, 2013
You are right, however, when you look at everything and that is the only thing left...It's the process of elimination when you know you are one of the best qualified based on the requested qualifications which change every time some wants their favorite to make rank.
Maybe not
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June 08, 2013
Maybe not, but right is right and wrong is wrong. This is wrong
Look and see
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June 07, 2013
If you can't make it all the way then just sue. How about you go and work somewhere else because nobody will respect your paper rank if you get it this way. People are useless these days.
Inferiority complex
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June 07, 2013
They don't respect either way. No matter how qualified minorities and women are, the, "Sour Grapes" mentality always enter in, because it makes those like you fell less inferior. That's sad.
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