Nine police officers – one Latino and eight non-Latino whites – have sued the Cleveland Police Department, claiming that it treats non-black police who shoot blacks more punitively than it does black officers.
The officers are part of a larger group that was involved in a deadly 2012 police shooting that killed two people. Dozens of officers were involved in the November 2012 high-speed chase.
Thirteen officers fired more than 100 shots at the vehicle, killing both unarmed people inside. The people who were killed were Timothy Russell, the driver, and Malissa Williams, a passenger.
The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, says officers who shot were put on administrative leave and on periods of restricted duty. The lawsuit seeking unspecified damages alleges discrimination and civil rights violations.
Messages seeking comment from city officials weren't immediately returned.
The plaintiffs claim that the Cleveland Police department repeatedly has treated non-black officers involved in shootings of blacks more leniently. The lawsuit claims that one African American detective who was involved in the chase and whose actions were “listed one of the systemic faults that led to the shooting” was not disciplined in any way.
The lawsuit comes as protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of an unarmed African American man, Michael Brown. The officer in Ferguson, Darren Wilson, resigned from his position this past weekend after a grand jury cleared him of wrongdoing.
The Cleveland officers who filed the lawsuit – Erin O'Donnell, Wilfredo Diaz, Christopher Ereg, Michael Farley, Cynthia Moore, Michael Rinkus, William Salupo, Brian Sabolik and Scott Sistek – said the department restricted the officers to limited duty after they were put back on the street following a period of administrative leave and scaled back work.
"The City of Cleveland, through the other named defendants, and the other named defendants in their individual capacities, have a history of treating non-African American officers involved in the shootings of African Americans substantially harsher than African American officers," reads the lawsuit, according to published reports.
"A serious dichotomy exists as a result of the defendants' longstanding practices and procedures which place onerous burdens on non-African American officers, including the plaintiffs, because of their race and the race of persons who are the subjects of the legitimate use of deadly force."
Cleveland.com said that lawsuits brought against the city by the families of Russell and Williams ended in a settlement of about $3 million.
The officers who sued said that not taking on a full workload caused them to miss out on raises and promotions and led to "emotional distress and mental anguish." It seeks unspecified damages, Cleveland.com said.
The suit notes that state Attorney General Mike DeWine attributed the deadly car chase shooting in part to a "systemic failure" by the police department, and that police officers should not have carried the entire responsibility.
The suit was filed on the heels of the shooting in Cleveland of a 12-year-old boy by a rookie police officer who responded to a 911 call about a youth with a gun.
The 911 dispatcher did not relay to the officer that the caller said it might be a toy gun, which it turned out to be.
The officer is white and the boy was black.
About 200 people recently staged a protest in Cleveland about the shooting, saying that police officer acted too quickly – within seconds of arriving at the location where he found the boy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.