Black police officers in Arlington County have filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the county and the police department have engaged in a longstanding pattern of race discrimination that has kept most black officers out of supervisory jobs.
The eight-page complaint, signed by seven of the county's 28 black police officers, contends that blacks in the police department are routinely assigned to jobs that afford little chance for advancement and that supervisors use a double standard for disciplining black and white officers.
The complaint, filed with the commission Tuesday, also contends that "traditionally and to the present, white supervisory and line officers alike have engaged in the use of racial slurs, epithets and comments. These actions have been open and notorious." There are 285 police officers in Arlington County.
The seven black officers, all of whom have the rank of private, have asked the EEOC to order the police department to promote them to ranks from corporal to lieutenant and award them retroactive pay at those higher ranks from 1978 to the present.
No total dollar amount for the proposed back-pay award has been determined, according to Joseph B. Scott, the attorney representing the black officers.
Police Chief William K. Stover declined to comment on the matter yesterday, police spokesman Tom Bell said. County Attorney Charles Flinn could not be reached for comment.
County personnel director Alan Christenson said yesterday that the county has had two to three formal complaints involving racial discrimination filed against it in recent years, but declined to say what county agencies were cited in those complaints or whether they had been resolved.
He said the county's 1972 affirmative action plan supports the recruitment, hiring, training and promotion of minorities.
The officers allege in the complaint that the department recently implemented a process that systematically discriminates against blacks by basing eligibility for promotions largely on what they contend is the subjective assessment of a group of police supervisors that includes only one black.
Of 10 black candidates who applied for promotion eligibility in December, all received generally high scores on written examinations but were rated generally lower than their white counterparts by white supervisors, according to the complaint.
The one black supervisor was precluded from rating black candidates, the complaint said. The papers filed with the EEOC did not explain that action.
"The problem is discriminatory practices and attitudes are tolerated by management. And management is involved," officer Maile Brim said yesterday.
Brim is president of JUTE, an association of black police officers in Arlington, and is one of the officers who signed the EEOC complaint.
"As far as getting along with our fellow officers, we basically get along fine," she said.
One of the officers who was found ineligible for a promotion has since left the department. Two others did not participate in filing the complaint, Scott said. The complaint asks the EEOC to prohibit the county from using the results of the December promotion eligibility exam in the future.
All the officers who signed the complaint have college degrees, and two of them have graduate-school degrees, Brim said. Six of the officers who signed the complaint have been members of the county police force from five to nine years, according to Brim, and one of the officers, Irving Comer, was the first black hired by the department in 1967.
According to Scott, the EEOC now has 180 days to act on the complaint brought by the black police officers and make recommendations to resolve the case, which can be accepted or rejected by the county. If the outcome is unacceptable to the black police officers, Scott said they will take their complaint to the federal court.