UPDATE: Washington Police Chief Responds To Discrimination Claim

Washington's Police Chief is back in town and responding after a former officer filed a discrimination complaint against the department.

When it comes to racism and discrimnation in the work place, Chief Mick Reed says the Washington Police Department has a "no tolerance policy."

Former Washington Police Officer Victor Garnett was fired in July. He says he was told he didn't meet department standards. But Garnett thinks he was let go because of racism.

While Chief Reed couldn't comment on Garnett's situation because of personnel issues, he says there are several policies set up so something like that doesn't happen. "We have done everything we can to ensure we have a working environment that is comfortable and purely professional and proper."

Reed tells WITN since he became chief in 2007 he's hired several minorities. But when it comes to promotions everything is not black and white. Reed says, "Hiring, recruiting is difficult regardless of cultural background, promotions are even more difficult because you don't create positions you wait until the positions are open."

Reed says his mission for the police department is simple, something he is constantly trying to achieve. "We are always actively recruiting qualified applicants. Our mission is to have a department that represents the community. That's our goal, will always be our goal."

ORIGINAL STORY:

One former Washington Police officer says he was fired because of racial issues in the department. Victor Garnett has now filed a discrimination complaint against the police department.

Garnett, who was fired in July, says he was told he wasn't up to department standards. But he doesn't believe that's the real reason why he lost his job. Garnett says, "I'm not disgruntled because I was fired, I'm disgruntled because the reason I was fired. If I was a bad police officer I wouldn't be there for one and a half years. This is a high liability job. No police officer would be able to carry a gun in the community if he wasn't competent."

Before his firing, Garnett says he filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission---claiming he was held to different standards than other officers. "You've got officers who can do no wrong and others who can do no right. Unfortunately, from my experience, African American officers have the most problems."

Washington city manager Jim Smith sent WITN a statement on Garnett's dismissal. Smith says the city has a grievance process and Garnett is free to address any concerns he may have about his employment through that process.

Garnett tells WITN the city has agreed to mediate a meeting between himself and the police department. He says he didn't just file the complaint for his own benefit, he wants the community to know what's going on too. "When you look at the Washington Police department and you have a large African American population and look at the police department and see four African American officers, it's a problem. And when you see no African American above a corporal you have one corporal, you mean to tell me out of the whole city of Washington you can't find one that can be a sergeant or lieutenant?

According to smith, there are six minority officers in the police department. The city classifies women as minorities. Three of the six are women.

The city manager told WITN he has complete confidence in Police Chief Mick Reed and the direction he's taking the police department. Smith says the police department is also working on hiring more minorities.

Chief Reed has been out of the office for the past week. We'll ask him for an interview upon his return.

CITY MANAGER'S FULL RESPONSE:

The City of Washington is committed to respecting and addressing the needs and desires of all residents of our community. In the past 3 years, the City has invested: $970,000 in housing and infrastructure improvements in distressed neighborhoods; $420,000 of Governor’s Crime Commission and US Department of Justice funds in Project Next Step, working directly with neighborhood residents; $208,000 in neighborhood park improvements; and, in cooperation with the Washington Housing Authority, $885,000 in new and rehabilitated housing and improvements in distressed neighborhoods.

With regard to the Police Department, we have complete confidence in Chief Mick Reed, and the direction in which he is leading the Washington Police Department. The City utilized a diverse selection panel and outside professional consultants to assist us in selecting Chief Reed. We believe that the police Department and the City as a whole has made steady progress in the past several years in respecting the diversity of the community in regard to hiring, promotion and retention of minority candidates and that they will continue to do so. The number of minority officers in the Police Department has increased from 4 to 6 under Chief Reed’s leadership and we are presently recruiting. We also have provided opportunities for advancement to minority officers in the past several years.

Last year the City obtained State and federal grants to assist us in implementing a community oriented policing program. This community oriented policing program was supported and promoted by local NAACP representatives, who helped formulate the program and continue to assist with the neighborhood activities of the project.

With regard to specific comments regarding Mr. Garnett, NCGS 160A-168 applies to current as well as former employees; therefore we are limited by law as to what we can say about personnel matters. The City has a grievance process. Mr. Garnett is free to address any concerns he may have about his employment or the separation of his employment through that grievance process. Mr. Garnett and any other City employee who has concerns about what they may believe is racial discrimination are also able to avail themselves of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission process, and the City is pleased to cooperate in any such process.


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