Richmond Chief in Racism Suit Defends ‘Master’ Gag

Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2012

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus told a jury Wednesday that a picture he posted five years ago of one of his commanders with the caption “Master of Universe” was nothing but a lame joke, but an attorney for seven high-ranking black officers suing him for alleged racial bias said the gesture had an offensive message.

The caption beneath the photo of then-Capt. Lori Ritter, a co-defendant in the suit, in police headquarters was actually a slap at other commanders, letting them know she was about to be promoted over them to deputy chief, said lawyer Stephen Jaffe.

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The African American commanders who sued Magnus were also offended by the “master” term, saying it implied a master-slave relationship. Both Magnus and Ritter are white.

Most of Wednesday was spent hearing testimony from Lt. Cleveland Brown, the latest of several plaintiffs to describe a racially tense atmosphere in the Police Department.

One of the key accusations involves the “Master of Universe” posting. Magnus said he mounted the picture on or around April 1, 2006, as a jibe to commanders after none responded to his request to post their photos.

Ritter was the only one who put her photo up, he said, so he jokingly posted 12 of her with captions sporting job titles from recruit to deputy chief to chief, and finally “Master of Universe.”

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