MILWAUKEE – Seventeen white, male police lieutenants were awarded nearly $2.2 million by a jury that concluded they were not promoted because of discrimination.
The jury found last week that former police chief Arthur Jones (search) had promoted less-qualified women and minorities to captain, ahead of the plaintiffs. The former chief, who is black, testified he picked nominees mostly by personal evaluations of their skills, without consulting resumes or department personnel records.
The 17 plaintiffs will receive compensatory damages from $9,500 to $50,000 each, and $102,000 each in punitive damages from the city.
Jones noted that during his seven-year tenure he promoted 41 people to captain, 21 of them white men. The city argued that the fire and police commission, which approves hirings, was not malicious and did not know about any discrimination.
Two of the men who brought the lawsuit in 2003 have since been promoted to captain and two have retired. Jones left the department that year.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Curran (search) will hear more testimony before deciding whether to award back pay and promotions, for those plaintiffs who are still lieutenants.
Their attorney, William Rettko, asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars for each man, saying they suffered emotionally and lost status in the community because of the discrimination. Since all are at or near retirement age, they would have difficulty finding other jobs, he argued.
Rettko said he did not know how many of the men would return to the department. Assistant City Attorney Miriam Horowitz and current police Chief Nan Hegerty declined to comment on the jury's decision.
Capt. Andra Williams, who was named in court as one of the black officers benefiting from Jones' discrimination, said he would have been promoted no matter who the chief was.
"It's insulting to be labeled as less qualified or to imply that the community is getting less of a supervisor in me or any of the other minority supervisors or women," he said.