A federal judge in Alexandria yesterday denied a request from a white Arlington police officer to block all promotions on the county force until a hearing can be held on the constitutionality of a county plan to promote minorities and women in the police department.
U.S. District Court Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. denied the request filed Monday by Officer Thomas J. Wise for a temporary restraining order against the implementation of an antidiscrimination agreement signed in January between the county and seven black police officers.
The agreement -- a result of a suit brought by the seven officers last year charging discrimination against blacks -- established a formula for promoting women and minorities. The pact has drawn criticism from some police officers who contend it amounts to reverse discrimination against whites and men.
The first promotions were made under that formula last month, when one white and two black male officers were promoted to the rank of corporal, the lowest supervisory level.
In his request to temporarily block those promotions and block future ones, Wise contended that one of the promoted black officers, who scored lower on a test than Wise did, was illegally and unconstitutionally promoted over him in violation of federal laws against "quota systems." The county has maintained the plan does not constitute a quota system, but merely establishes "goals."
Thomas J. Morris, Wise's attorney, said the case will be pursued in court. Morris said that Wise, a 12-year veteran, was not seeking a reversal of the promotions, but a freeze on all promotions until a hearing on the merits of his case. He is further contending that no corporal vacancies existed when the promotions were made in February, so they should not have been made, Morris said.
But Bryan agreed with arguments by Cynthea L. Perry, an assistant county attorney, that Wise had not demonstrated, as required, that he would suffer irreparable harm or that his hardship was greater than that of the county, which must act in the public interest.
Under the agreement between the county and the seven officers, the county adopted an accelerated promotional system designed to redress "the historical imbalances" of minorities and women on the force. The plan states that the pool of officers eligible for promotion will consist of the five top-ranked applicants or 20 percent of them -- whichever number is higher -- together with the three highest ranking blacks, women or other underrepresented groups on the force.
Wise placed 22nd in the corporal test, ahead of a black officer who was 33rd. The black officer was one of the three highest-ranking blacks eligible for consideration.
The goal of the agreement is that a third of all promotions will be given to blacks until their representation in higher ranks reflects their numbers in the community. Agreement has not yet been reached on whether "the community" means Arlington, the Washington area or the state of Virginia.
Of the department's 290 members, nearly 25 percent are members of a minority group or are women.
Wise's case has won the support of the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association, which last summer asked the County Board to delay implementing the affirmative action agreement. The board, faced with a finding of discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the case of the seven black officers, has not granted the association's request.