Suit: White cops in sex scandal promoted, not fired

Posted: July 03, 2012

The internal investigation concluded that the Coatesville police officers accused in a sex scandal should be fired.

Instead, a lawsuit claims, the officers, all white, were promoted and went on to help foster a "hostile environment" for the handful of African Americans on the Chester County city's police force.

One example of that environment, the suit alleges: a Confederate flag decal that a white sergeant has displayed on his auto license plate "with the knowledge of the police department."

The claims are part of a civil rights suit filed June 26 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by Cpl. Larry Cooper, who identified himself as the highest-ranking black officer in Coatesville's police department.

The suit also says the department practices "intentional discrimination" that includes "packing the officer ranks with white police officers." Coatesville officials did not return calls Monday seeking comment on the suit.

Cooper, who said he had received numerous awards, alleged that he was repeatedly passed over for promotion while officers accused in the sex scandal - part of a self-described "Dirty Half-Dozen" - were elevated to leadership positions.

Minority officers are subjected to "ridiculing" and capricious standards, the suit says. It said that conversations among black officers are called "brothers' conventions" and that blacks are not the only targets - in Internet postings, white officers have referred to Mexicans as "dirty" and "presumed to be illegal aliens who are only good for yard work," the suit alleges.

Race relations in Coatesville, the site of a 1911 lynching of a black man accused of killing a white company's police officer, have a troubled history.

Cooper's is the second bias suit against the police department in the last year. In September, two African American and two Latino officers filed a discrimination complaint, which is pending, said their attorney, Gregg L. Zeff. The four remain on the force.

Coatesville's population is 46 percent black; Cooper's suit said only five of the city's 32 police officers were black.

The four officers allegedly involved in the sex scandal who are still on the force now outrank him, Cooper said.

About five years ago, the Police Department investigated charges that a woman had "unwanted sexual contact" with two officers. Three officers allegedly had sex with her while on duty.

The suit said that the investigating officer recommended that all five be fired, but that Police Chief Julius M. Canale II, appointed in 2009, "overlooked the alleged misconduct." The five, along with a relative of one of the accused officers, began calling themselves "the Dirty Half-Dozen," Cooper claimed, "to brag about the severity of the issue and lack of punishment."

In addition to seeking undetermined damages, the suit asks the court to appoint a "civil rights monitor" for the department and to bar "any acts of retaliation."


Contact Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.

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