By Bonnie Eslinger
Palo Alto Daily News
EAST PALO ALTO — Days after then-Police Chief Ron Davis announced last month that he was leaving for a high-profile federal job in Washington, D.C., four African-American police officers filed a racial discrimination complaint against him.
The Nov. 1 complaint alleged that Davis, who is also African-American, created a hostile work environment for black employees.
"His temperament toward African-American employees is abrasive, belittling and dismissive," states the complaint by Sgt. Roderick Norris and Renaldo Rhodes, and Officers Paul Norris and Paul Hines.
Davis also showed his bias against African-Americans in hiring, promotions and assignments, they allege.
The complaint was sent to Barbara Powell, the assistant city manager for human resources, as well as to City Council members.
Powell said she can't talk about the complaint because it's a "confidential personnel matter," but added that action will be taken.
"The city takes this very seriously, and the city will be following up on it," Powell said.
Davis could not be reached for comment.
Attempts to reach Hines and Paul Norris by phone and email were unsuccessful. Roderick Norris and Rhodes are currently on leave, according to a police department receptionist.
The three-page letter to Powell cites several examples of Davis' actions or behaviors that the officers said back their claims of racial discrimination.
According to the complaint, African-American senior officers are routinely passed over for sergeant positions, there are no black detectives in the investigative division, and from mid-2005 to mid-2013 only one African-American police officer was hired.
In addition, Davis sent his assigned African-American secretary to another city department shortly after his arrival in 2005, the complaint states. And although he hired one African-American woman as a crime analyst in 2006 and another as an administrative services manager in 2007, both complained they were treated harshly by Davis, the complaint alleges. The analyst resigned in 2011, and the manager requested a transfer to another department.
The complaint also says that in 2011, an African-American sergeant told Davis a police department officer posted the "n-word" on his Facebook page. When that officer and his friends retaliated against the sergeant by harassing him, Davis did nothing, according to the complaint.
"The examples that have been cited are a minute glimpse into the ongoing suffering endured by African American employees since Chief Davis took over the department," the complaint states.
During his 8 1/2 -year tenure in East Palo Alto, Davis was credited for reducing the city's high murder rate and implementing progressive anti-crime initiatives.
On Oct. 25, Davis announced he was leaving to serve as director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Policing.
Follow Bonnie Eslinger at Twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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