MILWAUKEE – A federal jury found that Milwaukee’s former police chief discriminated against 17 white men by promoting women and minorities ahead of them.
The jury, which reached its verdict Tuesday, will return next week to decide how much the plaintiffs should get in damages.
The 17 are seeking more than $5 million and an immediate promotion to captain if applicable. Two are now captains, and two others are retired.
“Total victory,” proclaimed one of the plaintiffs, Lt. Steven Alexander.
During the three-week trial, the plaintiffs claimed that former Police Chief Arthur Jones, who is black, discriminated by repeatedly promoting women and minorities to captain ahead of better-qualified white men.
Assistant City Attorney Miriam Horwitz countered that Milwaukee’s police chiefs have long had wide latitude in appointing captains and said 21 of the 41 captains Jones named were white men.
In his testimony, Jones said he picked nominees mostly by personal evaluations of their skills, without consulting resumes, personnel evaluations or permanent records in the department.
Capt. Andra Williams, who was named in court as one of the black officers benefiting from Jones’ discrimination, said he would have been promoted no matter who the chief was. Williams said he would continue to do his job in a professional manner and expect his co-workers to do the same.
“It’s insulting to be labeled as less qualified or to imply that the community is getting less of a supervisor in me or any of the other minority supervisors or women,” he said.
Milwaukee NAACP branch President Jerry Ann Hamilton said the only thing Jones did was try to right a wrong in promotions of minorities and women.
Bradley DeBraska, former president of the Milwaukee police union, had a different view.
“This speaks volumes as to the promotional process and how it should be conducted and that it should be on merit and competency and not on race, gender or sexual orientation or other protected characteristics,” DeBraska said.