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Black NYPD detectives claim they were denied promotions based on race

NEW YORK — A group of black detectives in the NYPD’s Intelligence Division filed a federal lawsuit against the department  Monday, claiming they were denied promotions based on race.

The detectives, who each joined the Intelligence Division in 2001 and assisted in cleanup at Ground Zero, said they were repeatedly passed over for promotion because of their race.

“I hit a brick wall when it came to my career in Intel,” said Detective Roland Stephens. “I came to the painful realization that my skin color mattered more than my skills and achievements.”

Stephens, along with Detectives Jon McCollum and Sara Coleman, widow of Theodore Coleman,  filed a complaint in 2011 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission concluded in 2016 that “black detectives do not receive equal treatment in promotion[s]” and that there was a “wholly subjective and secret [promotion] process” in the Intelligence Division.

“Jon McCollum, Roland Stephens and Theo Coleman were accomplished and committed detectives who are exactly the types of people the NYPD should be proud to have in its ranks,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn, who serves as co-counsel. “The only reason they were not promoted is because they are black, and that is a grievous insult not only to them but to every New Yorker.”

Most of the officers in the division are white, as are all the higher-ranking officers.

Police department officials said a review of a recent 10-year period showed the opposite, that lower-ranking black detectives in the unit were promoted faster than their colleagues.

“Following the EEOC’s investigation, the NYPD presented information on promotions and diversity within the Intelligence Bureau to the Department of Justice. After a review this, DOJ declined to pursue the case,” said Peter Donald, an assistant commissioner with the department’s public information unit.