CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An predominantly African-American police organization is defending itself and its vice president after both were named in a federal lawsuit filed by two white Cincinnati police officers last week alleging a racial divide within the Cincinnati Police Department favors black officers through "race-based" double standards.
The Sentinel Police Association "will not let this city retreat to Jim Crow employment rules inequality and retaliation," the organization's president, Officer Louis Arnold, said in a news release Monday.
The Sentinels describe themselves in the statement as "a civil rights organization that advocates for equal opportunity within the Cincinnati Police Department" whose members include hundreds of black, white, male, and female officers.
The group "has worked constructively with the city administration and the Fraternal Order of Police to overcome the history of discrimination, racism, and sexism that has denied blacks and women equal opportunity in the sworn ranks," according to their statement.
"That work is not done. The inaccurate and inflammatory statements in the Brown/Ludgatis lawsuit seek to undermine the consent decrees and take us back to the days of white supremacy and oppression.
"The SPA will not let this city retreat to Jim Crow employment rules inequality and retaliation."
The group plans to hold a 1 p.m. press conference Tuesday with civil rights attorneys Al Gerhardstein and Janaya Trotter Bratton. It will be held at the Sentinels office, 1889 Central Parkway.
Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he will not discuss the Sentinel Police Association comments Tuesday "out of respect for Sonny Kim, his memory and his family."
Officer Kim, 48, made the ulatimate sacrifice in the line of duty when he died three years ago Tuesday. He was shot in what has been described as an evil ambush after responding to reports of a belligerent man with a gun in Madisonville.
"We can forget all this squabbling for a day and remember what is really important: Looking out for each other," Hils said. "Sonny Kim should be the example of how we should get along, no matter what our race or background is."
Racial tension in the department has become so bad, it has caused "open hostility between officers of different races" that has "jeopardized officer safety," according to the lawsuit.
Police Specialist Joy Ludgatis and Officer Tamera Brown filed the suit against the City of Cincinnati, Mayor John Cranley, Police Chief Eliot Isaac, District 3 Lt. Danita Pettis (who is the Sentinels' vice president), former City Manager Harry Black, Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney and the Sentinels.
The lawsuit alleges discrimination, a hostile work environment, retaliation and unlawful employment practices and seeks unspecified damages.
Pettis, a veteran, high-ranking African-American police official, is a focal point of the suit. It describes her as a "vindictive and openly racist police officer whose conduct, but for her race, would have resulted in discipline "and/or criminal charges."
The Sentinels defend her in their statement: "The personal attack on Lt. Pettis is unfair and seeks to perpetuate the false narrative that Black women in positions of power are unqualified, angry, aggressive, and dishonest."
"These personal attacks have no place in a constructive effort to solve problems. All participants in the recent disputes described in the lawsuit were provided a full and fair opportunity to air their issues – including Brown and Ludgatis – and Chief Isaac has addressed their complaints.
"Today a core value of the CPD is 'Diversity: Our members recognize differences as a strength in our organization and community,'" the release states.
The Sentinels invite "Brown, Ludgatis, the FOP, and city administration to work with us constructively on the ongoing efforts to promote and ensure diversity and equal opportunity for men and women in the CPD including the present efforts underway with the Cincinnati Public Schools to implement the diversity plan."
This is the latest controversy at Cincinnati Police Department as concerns about racial tensions in the department became public over the past year and increased in recent months.
The lawsuit comes after seven months dispute during roll calls at District 4 police station in Avondale last year.
The leader of Cincinnati's police union, Sgt. Dan Hils and Pettis - who filed a complaint against him - were reprimanded as a result of the incidents, including one in which Hils referred to one of the city's neighborhoods as an "urban ghetto" and that he had "kicked (Pettis) a-- when arresting her 25 years ago.
Hils later apologized for his "urban ghetto" comments and in an interview with internal investigators conceded he was wrong to discuss Pettis' arrest.