Like a throwback to the past, Black officers have alleged racism in the Banning Police Department, which may trigger legal action.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
Where is Banning, Calif.? It is hardly discernible on the map, but recent allegations of racial discrimination within its 33-member police department may bring this obscure town, east of the city of San Bernardino of about 30,000 residents, into the spotlight and public’s consciousness.
Several of the town’s former police officers have written to those in charge asking for an apology and damages of $1.5 million for each officer for having been discriminated against and fired from the police department.
The town has about 2,000 African-American residents and presently, there are none in the police department; they have all been fired.
According to ABC News, Greg Herrington is a former Banning Police officer who said he was fired for insubordination. Along with other African-American officers, he is claiming that they all have been systematically removed. He said, “The biggest thing that we want to see is just some justice, and some equality, that we’ve all suffered through, and we had to suffer for years at the Banning Police Department.”
Attorney Rupert A. Byrdsong of the law offices of Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt sent a seven-page letter to the city manager on behalf of the dismissed officers and said that he has not filed a legal claim against the city or Police Department, but delivered the letter to the city manager outlining their concerns. Byrdsong said, “This is something that has to stop; here we are in 2011 and these things are still going on.” In addition, he has invited them to sit down and discuss the issues and problems.
The above-mentioned letter contained information on three officers – Marcus Futch, Herrington and Allen Eley – and it provided a brief overview of the alleged different treatment received between African-American and White police officers. It also stated in part:
“There are other African-American officers who have been mistreated because of their race and even white police officers for associating with African-American officers. We are informed and believe that the BPD is well aware of other instances of different treatment experienced by African-American officers.
“… The problematic issue with the BPD is that it treats white officers more favorably than the African-American officers. Indeed, the BPD has an institutionalized philosophy to punish African-American officers for manufactured or trumped-up infractions while allowing white officers to repeatedly commit egregious acts with impunity in violation of both BPD policy and California law. For example, a white officer was involved in a high speed vehicle pursuit. During the pursuit, the officer collided into city property while pursuing the culprit. However, the white officer should have never initiated this pursuit because he had a civilian ride-a-long for his shift. The civilian was inside the vehicle during the pursuit and collision. This act was an egregious violation of departmental policy. The white officer was never placed on administrative leave and his traffic collision was investigated as a collision. The damage was very costly and no discipline was imposed on the officer…”
The letter gave the city seven (7) days to respond but from the public statement from Banning’s police chief, Leonard Purvis, that it’s a personnel matter and “…We’ve had to terminate some officers for severe misconduct and we’re committed to that. If we have officers who aren’t following policy and procedure, and are violating the law, we’re going to hold them accountable.”
Attorney Robert H. McNeill Jr., one of the managing partners of the law firm, told the Sentinel, “Rupert Byrdsong of Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt is pursuing action against the city of Banning and its police department on the grounds of racism with respect to employment, for terminating police officers wrongfully in violation of their constitutional rights.”
A lawsuit seems inevitable.