Paul Egan, Detroit News, 15, 2007
A federal civil jury awarded a $254,000 verdict to an Hispanic lieutenant with the Inkster police Wednesday, ruling the department discriminated against him because he was not black.
Thomas Diaz sued the city in 2005, alleging the department promoted less qualified black applicants ahead of him when he was passed over for promotions to commander in 2004, deputy chief in 2006 and chief in 2003.
“Naturally I’m very pleased,” said a teary-eyed Diaz before embracing his lawyer, James Fett of Pinckney.
A development that Fett said had an impact on the jury was the city’s agreement that Deputy Chief Gregory Hill testified falsely last week when he said under oath that he attended and obtained a degree from Western Michigan University. Hill could not be reached Wednesday.
Diaz, who was Inkster police command officer of the year in 2002, alleged that the city “promulgated and continued a policy of discriminating in employment against non-African-Americans.”
An all-white jury agreed after deliberating for a day and a half. The weeklong trial was held before Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. The jury rejected Diaz’s claim that the city retaliated against him for filing his lawsuit.
Fett, who has successfully litigated similar reverse discrimination lawsuits against the Michigan State Police and others, said Inkster’s policy was unwritten but well-known.
It’s the type of policy Proposal 2, which voters approved in November outlawing public sector affirmative action, was intended to prevent, he said.