By Debbie Siegelbaum - 04/19/11 05:47 PM ET
More than 50 black employees of the U.S. Capitol Police have filed a complaint Tuesday, alleging discrimination by the police force.
Their action comes 10 years after nearly 300 employees filed a class action discrimination lawsuit, a suit that remains unresolved.
In a press conference, members of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association announced they intended to file a classwide request for counseling with the Office of Compliance, which will “initiate a process that will in all likelihood lead to yet another discrimination complaint” filed against Capitol Police, according to association member and Capitol Police Lt. Frank Adams.
Cited as reasons for the action are reprisals, hostile work environment and discrimination committed against black employees by the Capitol Police, the Capitol Police Board and the senior employment counsel for both, Frederick Herrera.
“The United States Capitol Police Department continues to project a model culture of discrimination as reflected in a ‘modern day version of a 19th Century Southern Plantation in law enforcement,’” Adams said.
The U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2001, current and former black Capitol Police officers and employees filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, citing discrimination by the Capitol Police Board. Blackmon-Malloy v. U.S. Capitol Police Board has yet to be resolved, but the number of plaintiffs has been whittled down in the intervening years due to deaths or plaintiff settlements.
Current complainant and former Capitol Police officer Mary Rhone spoke of the bullying and harassment she experienced in her time on the police force, and called for an end to such conduct.
“I never thought that I would be standing here after 10 years fighting for the same justice that we fought,” she said. “And yet, I stand here today filing another complaint.”
Rhone also called on lawmakers to intercede in the matter.
“I would hope that after all these years that Congress would take a step, and while they’re fighting oppression in all the other states, that they would come on Capitol Hill and fight the oppression that we’ve been fighting for 10 years,” she said. “And yet they remain silent.”
According to the association, to date there are approximately 20 active and related discrimination cases alleging reprisals, denial of promotions to upper ranks, denial of career-enhancing training opportunities and a hostile work environment against black employees of the Capitol Police.
The association also alleges that the chief of police and members of the Capitol Police Board have done little to nothing to eliminate inequities, and black officers have been kept from the upper ranks of the police force.
Following the press conference, members of the association officially filed the complaint with the Office of Compliance.
“I will fight until I have no more breath in me because discrimination is something I will not stand for, and this organization will not stand for,” Rhone said of the action. “And I will file as many complaints as it takes.”