Fired police officer in Washington town sues for $5M in damages
Gerry Pickens, 28, was the first ever black police officer in Orting, Washington, but was fired from the post after a year and then received threatening messages warning against litigation for what he says is racial discrimination.
Pickens, who had previously worked in Atlanta and was used to a much more lively police beat, moved to the sleepy Washington town, which only had 11 officers, and took a pay cut.
He said that during his probation year, however, he was subjected to racist jokes from other officers and from residents before he was fired seemingly over his skin color.
Later, his car was vandalized, with the N-word written on one side and the phrase “Sue cheif [sic] and pay” on the other.
Watch a news report on Pickens’ firing from earlier this year below:
Pickens recently gained national attention for his predicament after the Washington Post published his story and accounts of racism he had experienced.
The problems for Pickens began when he first started as an officer and a resident called to report a “black juvenile” driving a police car. After that, his fellow officers began to jokingly refer to Pickens as the “black juvenile” and often called him the “token black guy.”
Pickens also went on to say that his vacation requests were handled differently and that he was suspended from duty over allegations that he used a gym without paying, while another officer was allowed to continue to serve despite excessive force charges. Furthermore, after Pickens left the force, he claims that the chief “slandered” him and “prevented him from future employment as a police officer.”
For his part, the chief, Bill Drake, claims that Pickens was fired for “unsatisfactory performance,” including infractions such as filing incomplete reports, taking too long responding to an important traffic stop, going home while on duty and not helping an officer in a “physical altercation.”
Pickens has since filed a $5 million lawsuit against the city, a sum that is more than twice Ortin’s annual budget.