The Arlington County Police Department has asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to reject a complaint filed by seven black officers who allege that the county and police department have discriminated in their training practices, the awarding of promotions and the assigning of duties.
The county, in a 12-page response, denied the allegations of racial discrimination and said they were groundless.
The allegations were made in a complaint filed April 26 by seven of the county's 28 black officers: Roy Austin, Maile Brim, Irving Comer, Henry Gates, David Hickson, Cecil Mobley and Joseph Pope. Gates, who said he has not read the county's response, declined to comment yesterday on the county's denial of racial discrimination. The other officers could not be reached for comment.
The seven black officers said in the complaint that the police department, in addition to denying them promotions, training and desirable work assignments, discriminated on salary policy, credit for previous law enforcement experience and re-employment after a lapse in service. The complaint further alleged that black officers were disciplined more severely than white officers and that the department fostered and tolerated an "antiblack" atmosphere.
The county responded that the majority of black officers were hired recently and haven't gained enough experience to qualify for promotion to supervisors. The response said that a black officer was promoted to sergeant after nine years' experience in law enforcement, while there were at least 71 white officers with 13 years' experience who have not been promoted to that rank. Only three other blacks had enough experience to make them eligible for promotion to sergeant, the county said.
The response said four blacks have been promoted to corporal while at least 95 white officers with the requisite 11 years' experience have not been made corporals. No black officers have reached a lieutenant's level of experience, according to the report. There are about 285 officers in Arlington County.
Attorney Joseph B. Scott, who represents the seven officers, said an examination given to officers in December to evaluate candidates for corporal did not meet EEOC guidelines for objectivity.
In its response, the county said courts don't require strict compliance with EEOC guidelines so long as the test is fair and job related, which the county contends the test was.
The seven black officers had said they were denied access to supervisory training courses. The county answered that only one of the courses is for supervisory training and it is limited to officers of the rank of sergeant or higher. The county also said officers can attend courses at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy. Three of the seven officers who filed the complaint did take such courses, according to the county's response.
The county denied that black officers were singled out for undesirable work, and said all new officers are assigned to less active "beats" to develop their skills. "This is true for white officers as for black," the county response said.
The seven black officers alleged that salary policy granting additional pay for college credit was changed because more blacks had a college education than whites. The county said the policy was changed in 1973 as a result of negotiations between the county and police union. The department also counts previous law enforcement experience in promotions, the response said.
The county denied allegations by the seven officers that there was a double standard for sexual conduct. The response said that there were only two cases of discipline for cohabitation with unmarried persons, in which both officers reprimanded were white.
Police Chief William K. Stover said earlier that the Black Officers Association "could be harmful to the department if it polarized the officers." According to the response, he has ensured that blacks have been represented on department task forces that develop policies affecting officers.