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Clayton cop: Promotions based on discrimination

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A Clayton County police officer is alleging that officials in the county's police department passed him over for a job transfer, and offered a spot on the department's narcotics squad to two other officers earlier this year, based on their race and gender.

Officer Nicholas Deaton filed a grievance with the county's Civil Service Board in May, complaining about "the promotion of employees based on race and sex," according to the agenda from a meeting the board held on Wednesday.

Deaton, a white male, is arguing that department leaders offered a narcotics investigator position he applied for, to two African-American females, who, he claims, did not apply for, or interview for, the position. The allegations of discrimination have been denied by Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter. Porter was not the county's police chief, however, when the alleged discrimination against Deaton reportedly took place.

At the time of the alleged discrimination, the department was led by then-Interim Police Chief Tim Robinson, although Porter served as a deputy chief then.

"On May 1, the department posted an opening in the narcotics division, and I applied for that position," Deaton said. "Generally, when the department has an opening, they advertise it first, then they take applications and conduct interviews. They appointed a black female, who did not apply for position, nor did she interview for it. They offered it to two black females, actually."

Deaton, who has worked in law enforcement for 11 years, has taken his argument of racial and gender discrimination to both county and federal officials. He said he has worked for the Clayton County Police Department for the last six years. Prior to that, he worked for the Jonesboro Police Department for five years, he said.

Deaton said he has filed complaints about the alleged discrimination with the Clayton County Civil Service Board, and with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Civil Service Board held a hearing on Wednesday to deal with the case. Deaton had been seeking the board's help in getting on with the narcotics division, but that part of the case became moot before the board even met. He was eventually transferred to the narcotics division, as a special agent, from the traffic division, two weeks ago, he said.

"I do think this is a moot grievance we have here, "Matt Simpson, an attorney for the police department, told the Civil Service Board.

The board voted unanimously, 5-0, however, to ask the police department to revise its policies for temporary assignment duties, to add more clarity. But it did not deal with the issue of possible discrimination within the department. Civil Service Board Chairman Larry Bartlett told Deaton the board was not in a position to deal with that issue.

"The venue to deal with this would not be this board," Bartlett said. "It would be a court with a much higher authority than this."

Deaton told the board members he is not sure what the status of his complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is, however. Deaton alleges that white officers have a harder time getting promotions within the department. He provided figures, which he said he came up with on his own by taking a list of sergeants in the police department, and calculating the average amount of time between when they joined the department, and when they received a promotion.

The list, however, does not show the race of the individual officers. Deaton said he determined that factor on his own, claiming that he knew the race of each person listed. "On average, white officers had to wait 11.47 years before they got a promotion, while every other officer had to wait only 7.14 years before they got a promotion," he claimed.

Police Chief Greg Porter said he could not comment specifically on Deaton's case because of possible pending litigation. He denied that department leaders, going back before he took over as police chief, have, to his knowledge, used race or gender as the basis for assignments or appointments.

"We are not promoting anybody without following civil service rules, or department policy, for TADs [Temporary Assignment Duties]," Porter said.

He further explained that, while officers have been moved into higher ranks, there have, technically, been no permanent promotions handed out in the department over the last two years. There have only been temporary appointments given out.

Porter added that he is currently having officials within the department work with county human resources officials to revamp the promotions process. That includes creating a new test that will be used to determine whether officers should receive promotions, he said.