The four officers — Sgt. Willie Davis, officer Jackie Parker, Sgt. Derrick Threadgill and Lt. Earnest Whitten — are listed as plaintiffs in a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed Monday in the Eastern District of Arkansas.
“Lets not beat around the bush; there is rampant racism and racial discrimination that riddles the Little Rock Police Department,” said their lawyer, Michael Laux, during a news conference.
LRPD Accused of Racial Discrimination
The lawsuit argues that the plaintiffs also faced a hostile work environment and retaliation from the department.
Six current or former members of the Little Rock Police Department are suing the city in federal court.
We want them to justify their personnel decisions, said attorney Mike Laux, whose law firm has won high-dollar judgments involving police cases in other cities. Ive looked at them. It doesnt make sense to me. Lets not beat around the bush. There is rampant racism and racial discrimination that riddles the Little Rock Police Department.
Lt. Earnest Whitten, Sgt. Derrick Threadgill, Sgt. Willie Davis, Lt. Johnny D. Gilbert Jr. and Capt. Tanya Washington all claim they are victims of that racism. Former officer Jackie Parker claims he was fired inappropriately by the department.
Were looking at six officers who are stepping forward in the great tradition of the LRBPOA, Laux said.
Gilbert is the son of one of the officers who brought a landmark discrimination case to trial in 1982. The rulings from it laid the foundation for cases like this one that have followed. Gilbert also testified for the family of Bobby Moore, a teen killed by officer Josh Hastings in a highly charged case that saw murder trials twice end in hung juries but a wrongful death suit result in a judgment for the family.
In my opinion, the Little Rock Police Department has not lived up to what it is capable of being, Gilbert Jr. said. We want to find out what it is capable of doing to be better.
The suit is claiming the discrimination continues despite African American leadership at the top in the form of city manager Bruce Moore and Chief Kenton Buckner. Laux said it does not absolve the chief of responsibility.
I dont know if he has made his career out of being the African American who is tough on African Americans and thereby useful to white leadership, he said. He relieves white folks of a lot of their guilt.
Buckner, Moore and Little Rock city attorney Tom Carpenter all declined to comment as the litigation begins.
The plaintiffs want promotions or their jobs back, plus back pay and damages.
They would also like a judge or jury to order the department to make major changes to the promotion and advancement system.