A group of non-Black police officers are claiming that the Cleveland police department is racially discriminating against them after a fatal encounter in 2012 led to the death of two unarmed Black persons. The officers filed a federal lawsuit last Friday, stating that the department treats non-Black officers more harshly than Black officers in shooting cases.
At the center of the lawsuit was a car chase that took place on November 29, 2012 where 13 officers fired 137 at a Chevrolet Malibu, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. No weapon was found on the scene and the group of officers in the lawsuit, eight white and one Hispanic, were among the group that fired the barrage of shots.
The officers – eight white officers and one Hispanic – claim the department has a history of treating non-black officers who shoot black residents “more harshly” than black officers involved in shootings, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio Friday.
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The officers who fired their weapons were placed on three days of administrative leave and then a period of restricted duty, which is usually 45 days for officer-involved shootings, according to the suit.
Nine of the officers involved in the shooting — Erin O’Donnell, Wilfredo Diaz, Christopher Ereg, Michael Farley, Cynthia Moore, Michael Rinkus, William Salupo, Brian Sabolik and Scott Sistek — claim the department violated protocol by ordering the officers back to restricted duty after being allowed to return to the streets in June and July 2013.
The orders prevent the officers from earning overtime pay and relegate them to “boring, menial tasks.”
The suit, which does not seek a specific amount of damages, claims the punishment has impaired the officers’ professional reputations and caused “emotional distress and mental anguish.”
Further, the suit claims the officers should not be held responsible for the shooting because Attorney General Mike DeWine said the incident was part of a “systemic failure” by the department as a whole.
In the aftermath of the police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in November, police in the city have been undergoing tough scrutiny.
The families of Russell and Williams settled a lawsuit against the city for $3 million. They were shot more than 20 times.
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