A group of Black police officers from the University of Washington (UW) have filed a claim of racism against the campus police department, stating that they have been regularly subjected to slurs and other acts of race-based discrimination.
The five rank-and-file officers are seeking $8 million in damages for the allegedly toxic work culture at UW in which they were the target of demeaning insults and hostility from fellow police officers and supervisors.
“Beginning in 2017, and becoming worse over time, white officers in the UWPD have insulted, demeaned, and mistreated me on the basis of race because I am an African-American,” wrote Officer Russell Ellis.
The Seattle Times reported that around a dozen incidents have occurred over the past several years.
Officer Karinn Young stated that she found bananas perched in her locker with a note that read, “Here’s your lunch, you ******* monkey.” Officer Damien Taylor had a supervisor who called him “his own negro” during a call and only responded with a laugh when confronted by Taylor later on. Ellis also had one of his superiors offer him a watermelon-flavored energy drink and said, “I thought all you guys like watermelon and Popeyes chicken.”
Even African-American UW Police Chief John Vinson faced descrimination despite his position.
“White officers called Chief Vinson the n-word on several occasions,” Ellis states in the claim, and the chief was later reassigned to an administrative position at the university.
UW spokesperson Victor Balta expressed the college’s surprise regarding these allegations because such complaints had not been reported to the administration.
“Any one of the incidents described here would prompt an immediate investigation and appropriate disciplinary action based on the investigation’s findings,” Balta said. “We plan to initiate our own investigation into these allegations now that they have been brought to our attention.”