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Black officers seek $8M in University of Washington racism claim

Students walk near the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press file
Students walk near the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.

Five Black officers with the University of Washington Police Department have filed claims of racism against the department and are seeking $8 million in damages, alleging they were routinely insulted and demeaned by co-workers and supervisors.

Some officers said they were disciplined and denied promotions because of their race, KOMO-TV reported Tuesday.

Officer Damien Taylor said a white supervisor referred to him as “ ‘(his) own negro’ on a call and later laughed at me when I confronted him about it.”

Officer Karinn Young said “a banana was put in front of my locker with a note reading, ‘Here’s your lunch, you ******* monkey.’ ”

The officers said University of Washington Police Chief John Vinson, who is also Black, was repeatedly criticized by white officers for hiring too many Black people.

“White officers called Chief Vinson the n-word on several occasions,” said Officer Russell Ellis said in the claim. Vinson was later reassigned to an administrative position at the university.

University spokesperson Victor Balta said the college is stunned by the allegations and that the institution has no record of complaints being filed with the allegations.

“Any one of the incidents described here would prompt an immediate investigation and appropriate disciplinary action based on the investigation’s findings,” Balta said. “We plan to initiate our own investigation into these allegations now that they have been brought to our attention."

The University of Washington Police Department's website addresses racism, saying it "must be addressed and eliminated, both in policing and from our community, so all of us can live without fear of discrimination.”

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