Everett police officers file discrimination lawsuit against city

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EVERETT, Wash. - Three Everett police officers have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Everett, alleging discrimination by the city's police department.

"The Everett Police Department routinely promoted Caucasian officers over more experienced and qualified officers of color in the department," said attorney Victoria Vreeland of Vreeland Law. "These veteran police officers collectively have more than 60 years of police experience but were repeatedly denied promotions despite their top rankings and qualifications due to their race."

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include sergeants Manuel Garcia, Richard Wolfington and Officer Sherman Mah. The officers made formal complaints with department supervisors and city officials about what they said is an unfair and hostile workplace, but city officials did nothing, the lawsuit states.

Garcia, who is Hispanic, has been with the police department since 1988 and a sergeant since 2002. Though he applied for a promotion to lieutenant and ranked first on the eligibility register, an officer who tested lower was promoted instead.  In 2011, Garcia was promoted to lieutenant, but when he raised issues of difference in treatment by his commanding officer, he was unfairly demoted, according to the complaint.

Wolfington, a Native American, has been with the Department since 1993. After serving for 20 years, he was forced to retire early last year because of hostile work environment and retaliation, the lawsuit says.  Wolfington said he was denied a lieutenant promotion after reporting unethical behavior by his commanding officer. The city did not investigate Wolfington's complaints, Vreeland said.

Mah, who is Asian, has been an officer with the department since 1995. Mah said he has been repeatedly skipped over for promotions by officers who ranked lower or failed required testing. Mah complained to supervisors and city officials, but his complaints were also never investigated, according to Vreeland.