Former officer files complaint|Garnett alleges discrimination behind termination

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Contributing Editor

A former Washington police officer who claims discrimination is behind his firing has filed a complaint against the department.
Victor Garnett, fired from the department in July, alleges racial discrimination as the reason he was terminated. Garnett said he filed a complaint with the department and a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with the complaint alleging he was held to different standards than other officers.
Garnett began working for the department on Jan. 28, 2008.
“I was terminated based upon race,” Garnett said, adding that he is a victim of harassment and retaliation because of the complaint he filed with the department.
Asked to provide an example of being discriminated against, Garnett said he was not allowed to consult with other officers when other officers were allowed such consultations. Garnett said he was placed on notice by the department for asking inappropriate questions related to crimes he was investigating.
Garnett also said he was told he was terminated because he was “not at department standards.” Garnett disputes that.
“I was not deemed incompetent by the police department,” he said.
Garnett said his mediation hearing with the EEOC’s office in Greenville is set for Tuesday.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Garnett replied when asked what remedy he wants as a result of his complaint.
“I want to be treated fair during my mediation hearing,” he said.
Mick Reed, Washington’s police chief, citing personnel laws and policies regarding city employees and former city employees, declined to discuss Garnett’s employment with the department.
“I can’t respond to a personnel issue,” Reed said.
Reed said the department has no room for racism and discrimination in its work place.
“The Washington Police Department has a zero-tolerance policy regarding any conduct under these circumstances. That policy is strictly enforced,” Reed said.
Washington City Manager James C. Smith said Garnett has at least two ways to address his concerns about his employment with the city.
“He can avail himself of the city’s grievance policy or pursue his complaint through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Smith said. “We would be pleased to participate in either.”
Garnett said he filed a grievance with the city.
“I’ve already got my response back on that,” Garnett said. “The city found no fault with the police department.”
Smith said he’s got complete confidence in Reed and the department. Smith, also citing laws and policies regarding personnel matters, declined to discuss Garnett’s employment with the city.
“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,” Smith wrote in a press release. “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.”
The six minority officers include three women. The department classified women officers as minorities.