City officials announced today that they have reached an agreement with black police officers settling their lawsuits alleging discrimination, but the officials refused to say what the decision will cost.
The agreement between the city and nine black officers calls for increased hiring and promotions of blacks and the undisclosed monetary settlement for back salary and legal costs. The agreement was unveiled at a press conference today that included Mayor Richard Hillman and members of the police force.
City Attorney Fred Sussman said, "The parties believe the terms of the settlement outweigh the funds involved." He and Hillman rejected arguments from reporters that taxpayers had a right to know how much city money would be spent.
The 101-member force has 10 black officers, according to Chief John Schmidt, although only the nine took legal action. Thus blacks compose 10 percent of the force in a city that is 35 percent black.
Cpl. Robert Beans, head of the Black Officers Association, said as a result of the agreement, "We have an open channel to the mayor's office and the ability to move up within the department." Prior to the decree, he said, discrimination existed in "hiring, promotion and different positions within the department that were not open to blacks."
The nine officers brought suit in U.S. District Court in June and also filed administrative complaints with the U.S. Office of Revenue Sharing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maryland Human Rights Commission.
They agreed to seek a mediated settlement, with help from the Justice Department's Community Relations Service, and today's agreement followed 40 hours of meetings, according to both parties. The terms of the agreement are contained in a formal consent order signed by U.S. District Judge Joseph Young, and settle all complaints.
Under the terms, the city will assign a task force to increase the number of blacks on the force; revise entry-level and promotional tests to reduce racial disparities, and work to upgrade police-community race relations. The agreement includes no quotas.