TAMPA, Fla. – The City of Tampa has filed a “Motion to Dismiss” regarding a high-profile lawsuit alleging white cop discrimination.
The entire case forces an examination of how Chief of Police Brian Dugan, the Police Benevolent Association serving as the police union, and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor achieve their police force diversity goals. It also reminds the police workforce to understand their union’s collective bargaining agreements.
John Fitzgerald filed suit against the City of Tampa in April, accusing it of discrimination, retaliation, demotion, and being “constructively discharged” – meaning, he was placed in a hostile work environment that allegedly forced him to make good on retiring.
He was promoted throughout his 22-year career to the positions of “detective” and “corporal,” and in this legal complaint was granted an assignment to serve as a “field training officer.” Fitzgerald claims he was removed from the field training squad under Dugan’s authority because he opposed a breach of protocol that allegedly showed favor to a failing black probation officer and because
Dugan was using the field training assignments to diversify the police force by purging white police officers. In their Motion to Dismiss, the City states Fitzgerald gave no proof to back up his claims and that Dugan, in cooperation with the union, does not have to justify the assignment or removal of any field training police officer.
The breach allegedly gave special treatment to a black probation officer who was failing her training under Fitzgerald’s guidance, where his performance was never questioned. A review of the officer’s Alternate Interval Training Report indicates eight critical aspects of police training where she suffered deficiencies, among them her investigative skills, her knowledge of regulations, policies and procedures, her judgment regarding the use of police force, the appropriate use of forms and an exercise in accuracy. She also failed to know when a criminal offense had occurred.
Higher-ups decided to forego daily performance evaluations until her remedial training was scheduled, which was delayed. However this decision was allegedly against department protocol, which Fitzgerald brought to their attention.
The City claims that the “advantages” granted to the failing black probation officer had “no harmful effect” on Fitzgerald, although he lost a $230 per month stipend when transferred. The City further claimed that Fitzgerald’s loss of his extra stipend was not a loss because he no longer had to perform his training assignment.
According to Fitzgerald’s lawsuit, his superiors consistently indicated his performance as a trainer was more than adequate, but a police captain allegedly told Fitzgerald he was being transferred out of the field training squad to achieve diversity.
Police sergeant Liza Doane was also transferred out of the squad and shared Fitzgerald’s concern regarding the breach of protocol.
Key in the City’s Motion to Dismiss is the explanation that an “assignment” in the police department’s field training squad – and removal from it – is not classified as a demotion – either by the City or its union contract with the Police Benevolent Association. The City says there are no prerequisites to becoming a field training officer – no specific qualifications or experience required – and that the assignment is not included in the seniority-based bidding system.
They explain that those assigned to the field training squad are chosen and removed at the sole discretion of the Police Chief. Ultimately, the City suggests Fitzgerald has more of a beef with the union than with them. The union agreed that field training officers are on “assignment,” at the discretion of the Police Chief with no potential to be considered demoted if they are transferred because “demotion” only refers to a police officer’s position. Fitzgerald remained in the position of corporal with the same pay and benefits after being transferred from the field training squad.
The City proceeded to accuse Fitzgerald of being “disparaging” against the black police officer who replaced him in the field training squad because he complained the officer had less time and experience on the police force. The City reminded the Court that field training officers do not have to meet any prerequisites.
Fitzgerald’s remarks, however, may merely reflect lack of knowledge of the union’s agreement with the City and how acquiring “assignments” versus “positions” actually differ. Fitzgerald poised his count of “retaliation” in his lawsuit based on being replaced by a less-experienced black officer that led to a new assignment in a “dangerous” District III from District I, which culminated in his retirement.
The City argues that Fitzgerald has offered no facts to prove District III was “dangerous,” and no fact that proves Dugan sought diversity by purging white police officers, although Fitzgerald claimed his police captain confessed he was being removed for the sake of diversity.
The City further stated that Dugan was not required to justify the selection or transfer of police officers from the field training squad. The City added that Dugan actually missed an opportunity to diversify the squad by allowing Fitzgerald to take the assignment in the first place.
Lesser aspects of the case were filed in the 29-page Motion to Dismiss.
A call to Fitzgerald’s attorney, Gary Printy of Tampa, generated no response. The police department does not respond to pending litigation.
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