DALLAS -- A racial discrimination and verbal harassment suit has been filed against the City of Dallas, the Dallas Police Department and three supervisory members of the Dallas Police Department.
Ray Sizemore, a Dallas High School graduate and former Dallas Police Department officer, filed his civil suit in federal court Sept. 9. City Manager Roger Jordan was served Sept. 13. A seven-year career law enforcement officer, Sizemore was on the Dallas force five years.
The suit asks for punitive and compensatory damages, to be determined by a jury trial. It also asks that the department and the City of Dallas implement and carry out policies that will eradicate an alleged racially abusive environment.
Sizemore, 28, is Hispanic of Mexican origin. He was one of two minority officers on the 18-member force. The other, Jim Rodriguez, is of Puerto Rican descent and has been with the force since 1989.
Dallas Police Chief Jim Harper, Lt. Tom Simpson and Sgt. John Wallace are being sued individually.
"The city and the police department have never, ever condoned the mistreatment of any employee -- racial, sexual or otherwise," said Harper in response to the suit.
"Not only do we have policies in place, we're too small of a group not to have healthy relationships, especially in a small department.
"The City of Dallas is the same way," he said. "That's the way City Manager Roger Jordan insists it be."
Sizemore claims Wallace, his training officer, began making racist statements during his first three weeks on the job.
He claims Wallace used racially explicit profanity in response to Sizemore's asking a question -- referring to him as "token brown boy" and "you stupid [obscenity] Mexican," laughing loudly.
Sizemore claims he was afraid to speak out due to his probationary status, but nonetheless on one occasion did so, asking Wallace to stop laughing and treating him in an offensive manner.
He also warned Wallace that if he continued, he would return to the station and turn in his equipment. Wallace allegedly responded by saying, "It's about time," and went on to criticize him for being too serious about his training phase and for not being able to take a joke.
Sizemore alleges that the racial slurs continued after he completed his training. He claims that Wallace's comments ranged from referring to a family celebration as "Beaner Fest `03" to derogatory statements about Mexicans on welfare and interracial sex.
Sizemore also claims Wallace treated him differently from the Caucasian officers by more stringently reviewing his police reports.
Harassment on the basis of race and/or color violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark legislation protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color as well as national origin, sex, or religion.
Ethnic slurs, racial "jokes," offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual's race and/or color breaks the harassment law if the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, or interferes with the individual's work performance.
"The City of Dallas' standpoint legally is that we're restricted under release of information to discuss specific events about this case," Harper said. "However, you can be assured that as the City of Dallas Police Department and the City of Dallas we did everything in our power to deal effectively with these allegations."
The charges against Lt. Tom Simpson center around his alleged refusal to address the situation after repeated attempts by Sizemore. Sizemore claims Simpson either said he did not have time to deal with it or that he did not want to make matters worse, often referring to the issue as "a personality conflict."
The suit alleges that when Sizemore appealed to Chief Harper, explaining all the alleged harassment, Harper told Sizemore to file a formal complaint in order for an investigation to be launched. Sizemore claims that Harper also warned him that regardless, Wallace would not lose rank and that Sizemore's days would be numbered, adding that his life would be complicated and uncomfortable if he lodged a formal complaint.
When Sizemore later asked Simpson about the investigation he claims he was told that Harper had stopped the process. Harper said Wallace was removed as Sizemore's supervisor, as is the policy in these sorts of investigations. He added that the investigation into the allegations is not complete.
"We comprehensively investigate all allegations that arise in the department -- including racial," Harper responded. "From our standpoint we put a lot of effort and time into this particular process. We feel like sometimes these things are a one-sided conversation. It's too bad that we have to deal with them that way. Ironically enough, the truth in a lot of these situations doesn't come forth in a reasonable amount of time, so it will be discovered several months or even several years from now.
"We've never, ever condoned treating people in that manner," said Harper, who has served as chief since 1987. "The police culture has changed around this issue," he said. "The whole arena has migrated. It used to be a sterile process, where it was clear you were never to violate anyone's rights as a federal mandate.
"But from our standpoint it comes down to it's just not right."
In February 2004 Sizemore filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. Sizemore claims that matters got much worse following that action, with his loss of participation in special events, including the annual awards banquet and the volunteer Honor Guard. Sizemore said he had pioneered the creation of the Honor Guard in the department, had written policies for it and used his own money for it. He also said he had previously organized, planned and participated in the awards banquet.
Sizemore said that after the BOLI complaint he was denied training opportunities which had previously been included as part of his employment.
The suit also alleges that two sham internal affairs investigations were launched after the BOLI complaint was filed, one including embarrassing and harassing phone calls to Sizemore's landlord.
The suit also claims Harper dismissed citations Sizemore issued right before he was to testify in court, embarrassing him in front of his peers and the community.
He claims Harper denied him the right to have his attorney or a union representative present during a July meeting, during which it was allegedly suggested he leave the force.
Sizemore claims the stress of the alleged retaliation forced him to take medical leave and has negatively affected his mental and physical health in addition to his career.
Claiming he felt he had no alternative, Sizemore resigned his position Sept. 1.