The city of Atlanta and its police chief have been hit with a proposed civil rights class action centered on the city’s allegedly “race-based decisions” when it comes to promoting individuals to the position of captain or higher.
According to the lawsuit, Atlanta has developed and condoned a pattern and practice of basing these promotions strictly on race, with the goal of ensuring an open captain or major position is filled by someone of the same race as the individual who previously held it. The 44-page complaint was filed by a white APD lieutenant who claims that while he was once on the promotional fast track, having reportedly been promoted three times within six years, he had to complain to his then-superior officer, former deputy chief Ernest Finely, about being discriminated against because of his race.
The suit, citing testimony from Finely in a related case, claims the city has had in place “white-out, white-in” and “black-out, black-in” policies in all six zones of the police department since at least 2002. The plaintiff claims that though he was up for appointment as captain in Atlanta’s Zone 2, the fact that he was Caucasian meant that he was “wholly excluded” from consideration for the position due to the city’s promotion policy. The alleged race-based line of reasoning with regard to replacing captains or majors is city-wide, the suit claims, pointing out that three of the six captain positions within Atlanta’s six zones are held by African Americans and arguing that the plaintiff would not even be considered for any of these spots because he is white.
Coupled with Finely’s statements, the complaint continues, is testimony from former Atlanta police chief and current Commissioner of Public Safety George Turner, who reportedly affirmed that race plays a role in decisions to replace those with the title of captain or higher. The lawsuit says that Turner testified that when it became necessary to fill a vacant captain or major position, he would look for the most qualified candidate who was of the same race as the individual being replaced, and that during his tenure from 2010 through 2016 outgoing captains and majors were intentionally replaced with individuals of the same race.