Three more police officers have filed a lawsuit alleging racism and discrimination within the Paterson Police Department. Police officers Karen Rayfield, Tamiko Griffin, and Kelly Cary Pacelli allege “a racially hostile working environment” at the department in their lawsuit filed last week.
The three officers join lieutenant Washington Griffin who filed a lawsuit late last year alleging he faced retaliation for complaining about alleged racist remarks made by a fellow police officer. He was suspended for 30 days as a result, according to his lawsuit.
In the latest lawsuit, Rayfield and Tamiko allege the department intentionally delayed their promotion to sergeant rank that in turn prevented them from becoming eligible for promotion to lieutenant in 2016. Both Rayfield and Tamiko were certified for promotion to sergeant on Sept. 28, 2015. However, the promotions did not occur until Oct. 13, 2015. The lieutenant’s exam is held every three years — 2016 — and requires one-year of service as sergeant to apply.
Cut-off date for year in service requirement has historically been Sept. 30. “Griffin and Rayfield’s promotions were delayed for the purpose of disqualifying them for promotion for the rank of Lieutenant,” reads the lawsuit filed on July 14th, 2017.
Pacelli was promoted to sergeant in 2014. A month after promotion, the lawsuit claims, in a break with “pattern, practice and custom” she was transferred from her division to patrol. Her shift was also changed to B1 (4 a.m. to 3 p.m.) which conflicted with her husband police officer Louis Pacelli’s schedule creating a childcare issue for the couple.
Pacelli needed to be in the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift to overcome the childcare issue created as a result of her post-promotion transfer. She sought transfer to internal affairs, juvenile, or intelligence divisions; however, her request was denied, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims, a non-African-American sergeant was given a transfer to internal affairs over her.
She was later transferred to B2 shift (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.). This didn’t help with her child care issue. Her shift ended at 6 p.m. and she couldn’t pick up her children from school. She requested another transfer, but was denied. The fourth time, she was granted a transfer to the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift in juvenile division. It took her two years to get a favorable transfer. She received it in January 2017, according to the lawsuit.
“This was due to her race,” alleges the lawsuit. Police have denied the allegations. Police director Jerry Speziale, when contacted about Washington Griffin in May, said: “There’s no systemic racism. I’d not stand for that. There’s no room for it. We pride ourselves in our diversity.”
Mark Frost, who is the attorney for all four officers, alleged there’s “systemic” racism in the department. His examples are alleged remarks made by a police officer about Pacelli and racist messages on the bathroom wall of the police headquarters.
Upon learning he’d have to take orders from Pacelli, police officer Giuseppe Giordano is alleged to have remarked, “I don’t take orders from niggers.”
“My client denies the allegations,” Joel Miklacki, attorney for Giordano, said in May when contacted for comments relating to Washington Griffin’s lawsuit. “The allegations against my client was dismissed.” He said a judge issued an order removing his client from that case.
Both lawsuits also cite a 2012 consent decree that forced Paterson and some other municipalities in New Jersey to give priority promotions for sergeant rank to minorities. This resulted from allegations of race discrimination in the New Jersey Civil Service exams for police sergeants.
Pacelli benefited from that consent decree. However, the priority promotions created resentment in the department among non-minority officers, states both lawsuits. This led to racist messages appearing around the police headquarters. There were messages like “Priority lazy scum” and “Priority = dumb + lazy.”
In Pacelli’s case, when she applied for the lieutenant exam after the consent decree, she was owed retroactive seniority from 2007 (when she first took the sergeant’s exam). Police only counted the retroactive seniority after she reported the department to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. Seniority is a factor in the exam. Once her seniority was counted exam score and ranking saw a boost, according to the lawsuit.
The city council discussed possibly settling Washington Griffin lawsuit in a closed-door meeting in June. No settlement has been reached yet in that case.