Police Chief Takes Stand, Defends APD in Discrimination Suit
Updated On: Mar 21 2014 07:08:38 PM AKDT
After weeks of sitting beside defense counsel at a civil trial over alleged discrimination at the Anchorage Police Department, Chief Mark Mew found himself in a new seat Friday -- on the witness stand.
The plaintiffs, Alvin Kennedy and Eliezer Feliciano, claim they experienced and saw racial profiling for traffic stops, unequal discipline for white and non-white officers, and the denial of pay raises or promotions because of race. In previous testimony, APD Lt. Nancy Reeder said she believed she had been retaliated against as a commander in their unit, but denied that a work attire policy was racially motivated.
Linda Johnson, APD's attorney, called Mew to the stand and questioned him about a promotion minority officer Duane Jones didn't get while under Mew's command. He said the position closed before Jones' promotion could go through.
"I told him I wanted to promote him," Mew said. "Frankly, I told him, 'You want it both barrels, Duane?' He says 'Yeah,' and I say, 'Duane, you been screwed.' That's what happened there with the Duane Jones situation -- I felt very badly about it."
"So it had nothing to do with the fact that he was a racial minority and didn't get promoted?" Johnson asked.
"No, nothing whatsoever," Mew responded. "We wanted to promote Duane Jones."
Ken Legacki, the plaintiffs’ attorney, asked why the undercover detective unit where his clients worked was disbanded. Metro, as it was called at the time, had a number of minority detectives.
Mew wasn't working for the department when Metro was dissolved, but explained his understanding was that it wasn't preforming to the standards requested.
"I think there are lots of people affected by this and some of them aren't minorities," Mew said.
Legacki then called into question why APD hasn't done more recruiting at colleges for minority officers to join the force. Mew says the department doesn't go out of state for any recruitment efforts because it's too expensive.
In his next line of questioning, Legacki asked if it would have been less expensive for APD to have recruited minority officers than fight this case. Mew said he couldn't answer the question.
The municipality is spending $350,000 for Johnson, an independent defense attorney, to fight the allegations.
Closing arguments could begin next week.
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