A black police officer is accusing the La Crosse Police Department of racial discrimination, and has filed complaints with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division and the federal government.
In the complaint to the state, Officer Anthony Clark said he’s “been subjected to persistent racial harassment from coworkers and supervisors” in the La Crosse Police Department. He said that fellow officers have used racial slurs against him. Clark also filed a formal complaint with the city after someone put a banana in his locker, which he interpreted as racist.
The officer also says he’s been retaliated against since he’s complained about the harassment.
The city’s human resources department has required three officers to receive diversity and harassment training, but found actions against Clark were not racial harassment.
Clark’s attorney James Birnbaum said that’s not enough, so they’ve taken the complaint to the state and federal levels. He’s hoping the state can mediate a solution for the city.
“From day one, Tony Clark’s intent was to get the conduct that was highly offensive and objectionable stopped, and to have some mechanism for registering concerns if in fact they ever occurred in the future,” said Birnbaum.
Mayor Tim Kabat said he’s following up with departments to better examine how complaints are processed and if there should be times when a third party investigates claims.
“If there are things that were done out of ignorance, then education and training should address and make a positive difference on the workforce,” said Kabat. “If it’s something beyond ignorance where it’s more serious, then there should be discipline.”
A Department of Workforce Development spokesman said the case needs to be signed to an investigator, and that investigations generally take several months.