Three black detectives are suing the New York Police Department, saying they were denied promotions because of their race.
The detectives, who worked within the department's intelligence division, filed the lawsuit Sept. 25 and said their lesser-qualified white colleagues were promoted over them, according to The Associated Press.
All three joined the unit in 2001 and say that they had excellent performance reviews, glowing recommendations from their superior officers and a long track record of solid work for the department, which handles cases of terrorism and other crimes.
But they say they were passed over for promotions that went their less-experienced, less-qualified white colleagues. Higher-ranking officers earn around $30,000 a year more.
"I did everything I could to get promoted," retired Detective Jon McCollum, who is part of the lawsuit, told the New York Daily News. "I watched countless white detectives from my class move up in rank, but not me. Multiple supervisors told me if I were white I would have been promoted."
McCollum said he received department honors 35 times and consistently received high evaluation marks. He was never disciplined, never received a complaint and never called in sick in his 24 years on the force.
"When I asked why I’m not being promoted, for the first five or six years, they just said, ‘I don’t know,’" he said.
McCollum, along with retired Detective Roland Stephens and the late Detective Theodore Coleman, represented by his wife Sara Coleman, are named in the lawsuit and are being represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"My husband Theo Coleman joined the NYPD to make a difference," his wife said. "His love of the job turned to disappointment and embarrassment when he realized his work would not be recognized because of his race."
Associate legal director of the NYCLU Christopher Dunn said that these three detectives should have been rewarded for their work, instead of being stuck in lower-ranking jobs.
"The only reason they were not promoted is because they are black, and that is a grievous insult not only to them but to every New Yorker," said Dunn.
The three detectives first filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, according to AP. The commission reported in 2016 that black detectives don't receive equal treatment to their white counterparts.
The lawsuit also mentions the racial disparity within the department itself. As of now, 44 percent of the unit is white and 10 percent is black. Hispanics and Asians make up 21 percent and 7 percent of the unit, respectively.
The NYPD has yet to respond to the lawsuit or the detectives' allegations.