The city of San Diego did not retaliate against a black police sergeant who complained about the use of a racist cartoon in training and other racial issues, a jury decided Thursday.
Sgt. Arthur Scott, 45, filed a lawsuit two years ago, alleging he was the victim of a hostile work environment and harassment.
Jurors found that the city did not retaliate against Scott by transferring him to another division or passing him over for promotion.
Deputy City Attorney George Schaefer said the police department suspended Scott for a day because on more than 140 occasions, he was at home rather than at work.
Scott also received a written warning because he failed to report a racial slur after being informed of the slur by another officer, Schaefer said, telling reporters after the jury verdict that it was “painful” for the city to have to defend itself against racial accusations.
Scott said that in 2011, someone posted racist pictures in a locker room that depicted President Barack Obama as an African chief with the word “Obamacare” underneath. He said when he complained, his supervisor told him he was being “hyper-sensitive.”
In 2014, Scott said he was retaliated against when he complained about a 1909 racist cartoon that was shown to officers during a training session. The cartoon depicts Frank McCarter, the city of San Diego’s first black police officer, as an ape and shows Chinese men running in fear. The cartoon was removed from training and Scott’s supervisor apologized to him.
After the verdict, Scott — a 13-year SDPD veteran — said it is sad that police leaders don’t understand that there’s racism in the police department.
“It’s unacceptable,” Scott told reporters. “We should have a platform to be able to speak out without fear of retaliation.”
Scott’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, did not ask for a specific dollar amount in damages following a five-week trial.
“This was never about money. This was about clearing Sergeant Scott’s name,” Gilleon told reporters. “They (the city) went after his name. They’ve been going after him from the moment he complained about that cartoon.”
Gilleon said the jury foreperson told him that jurors felt bad that the city hired a psychiatrist who testified that Scott was a “malingerer.”
“That rubbed them (the jurors) the wrong way,” Gilleon said.
—City News Service
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