Jury says Richmond's police chief didn't discriminate

April 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A jury decided on Tuesday that Richmond's police chief did not discriminate against or harass seven black command officers. It's a racial discrimination lawsuit that's taken nearly five years to resolve.

"Many places would have said, 'Let's just find a way to end this...'" said Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus.

At a celebration, Magnus thanked the City Council for voting to fight the racial discrimination lawsuit against him.

"There were some things that I would've definitely handled differently in retrospect, but nothing was intentionally racist or offensive in anyway," said Magnus.

In context, the jury believed the chief's comments -- which included racial slurs -- were inappropriate, but not racist.

Lt. Shawn Pickett is a plaintiff and a 24-year veteran on the force. He said, "Some of the things that were brought up and some of the things that were said, they were offensive to me. Maybe to someone else who isn't in my shoes, I think it's a little bit harder for them to judge."

"There were some inappropriate remarks and I regret them, absolutely. And certainly if anybody had ever talked to me about them, I would have apologized because they were said in a context, in an environment with police officers who joke around with each other," said Magnus.

The jury made up of whites, Asians, Latinos and no African Americans, decided the seven black command officers conspired to build a false racial discrimination case against Magnus.

"I think that people are a little reluctant to deal with the elephant in the room and I think that's really important. No one wants to take on the issue of race, everybody wants to sidestep it, and I felt that's what occurred here is that the jurors, nor the city, wanted to confront the issue of racism," said Pickett.

Pickett and the other plaintiffs believe the department is divided. The chief disagrees. But Pickett and the chief do agree they can still work together.

"I hope they recognize that our primary focus has to move away from our own personal feelings and remember why we're in this job in the first place," said Magnus.

"Although I don't agree with the jury's decision and I don't agree with some of the decisions he's made, I'm going to continue to work with him, so that we work for a better Richmond," said Pickett.

It's a case that has cost Richmond taxpayers more than $2 million. Meanwhile the plaintiffs say they're pushing on with a federal case to be heard in November.


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