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Black officers sue over racist e-mail

October 5, 2001

LAFAYETTE - Two black Berwick police officers plan to file a federal lawsuit alleging that a racist e-mail was circulated among white officers in the department, according to their attorney.

The e-mail allegedly contained an image of a running African-American male with bull's-eye targets on his head, lips, chest, buttocks and knees, according to Patterson attorney Edward Jones, who said he mailed the lawsuit Wednesday to U.S. District Court in Lafayette.

Jones said the words "Official Running N----- Target" were written across the top of the image and "For Police Use Only" across the bottom.

"This is a sad reality for 2001," he said.

Berwick Police Chief Duvall Author declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"Our attorneys have been advised of this, and I don't really care to discuss it," he said.

City attorney Allen McElroy Jr. said he had received verbal notification of the lawsuit but wouldn't comment because he had not seen it and because it is in litigation.

The lawsuit, to be filed on behalf of officers Paul Cox and Jason Burgess, seeks unspecified damages for discrimination and a hostile work environment.

The officers contend that they complained about the image to Assistant Chief James Richard, Chief Author and Mayor Emmitt Hardaway after becoming aware of it. But no disciplinary action was taken against the officer who allegedly circulated the e-mail, David Leonard.

Jones said Cox received an anonymous letter that contained a copy of the target image four months after initially complaining about the e-mail.

Leonard, Richard, Author and the city are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

"They just thought this was a big joke," Jones said. "They don't seem to think anything was wrong with it."

Jones said the image was downloaded from a racist Web site.

Besides being sent to all the white officers in the Berwick Police Department, he said, the image went to white officers in other departments.


by Richard Burgess, Copyright © 2001 - A Gannett Company


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