An Elgin police officer is suing the city and two Police Department employees, claiming a racist culture exists within the department, with racial slurs tolerated, the Ku Klux Klan celebrated and black officers treated unequally.
Phillipp D. Brown, an officer since 1996, filed a federal lawsuit last week against the city of Elgin, Lt. Sean Rafferty and professional standards officer James Barnes.
The lawsuit claims the city failed to address racial discrimination in the Police Department against employees and citizens. The complaint also states officers were allowed to routinely use racial slurs against Brown and other black officers. It alleges incidents dating back more than 10 years. Brown also claims he lost opportunities at work due to his complaints of discrimination.
William Cogley, Elgin’s corporation counsel, said the claims in the lawsuit were unfounded.
“I have no comment other than the suit is unfounded and we intend to defend ourselves,” he said.
Rafferty and Barnes, who are white, are named in the lawsuit for their alleged role in creating a hostile work environment, and for allegedly failing to act on Brown’s complaints. Neither could be reached for comment Monday.
Brown, who declined to speak Monday and referred all comment to his attorneys, is seeking punitive damages from Rafferty and Barnes, as well as compensatory damages and lost overtime pay from the city, among other relief.
Brown’s attorneys, Laurie Burgess and Steven Saltzman, could not be reached for comment.
The complaint alleges many racially charged incidents, including officers using racial slurs on several occasions to describe black people, including Brown’s infant son. Brown also received text messages containing slurs, according to the lawsuit.
Sometime about 2000, according to the suit, Rafferty, Brown and other officers attended a football game in Indianapolis. While there, Rafferty and another officer posed in front of a monument that makes mention of the Ku Klux Klan. With their hands forming a “K” they stated, “If you are looking for the Klan, we’re right here,” according to the lawsuit.
A photograph of the incident was passed around the department after the trip and resurfaced last year, the complaint states. The incident resulted in a five-day suspension for Rafferty last year, according to department records.
The lawsuit also alleges incidents when blacks were treated differently than whites during traffic stops involving drugs. Brown, who worked with Rafferty in the department’s gang unit, was at first afraid to report the incidents for fear of losing his job, the complaint states. He later transferred to a different unit.
About 2006, Rafferty accused Brown of leaking information to gang members during his role as an Elgin High School officer liaison. As a result, Brown was placed on desk duty for two years, losing out on overtime pay opportunities, the lawsuit claims.
An investigation resulted in no charges, and Brown denied the claims. However, he remained serving in the lower level duty, according to the complaint.
Eventually, Brown complained to a supervisor about several of the incidents, but no action was taken after a five-month investigation, the lawsuit states.
Brown, who says he suffered emotional distress, asks in the lawsuit for racial sensitivity training and a three-year monitoring period by the court “to ensure that the racially hostile work environment at the (police department) is and remains destroyed.”email@example.com