Police Sergeant loses lawsuit, but still claims victory

The San Diego Police Sergeant who sued the city and his own department for racial discrimination and retaliation lost his case Thursday morning. It took jurors a full week to reach that verdict and decline to award Sgt. Arthur Scott any compensation.


The jurors were emotional; several of them in tears following the verdict and many stayed after court to personally talk with Sgt. Scott. But while they were sympathetic, they could not find the city or San Diego Police Department responsible for any harm.


At issue was a cartoon which appeared in the San Diego Sun newspaper in 1909.  It portrayed the city’s first black police officer as an ape and was reprinted in departmental training materials to show how much progress has been made in the past century.  Then it became ammunition for Police Sergeant Arthur Scott to sue the city and the police department for discrimination.


“It’s sad it has to come to this. There’s racism in our department. Things are ignored and they had opportunities to investigate, but you heard in the trial excuses were made,” Sgt. Scott said.


Lt. Christopher Knighten was Sergeant Scott’s supervisor; he agrees the cartoon is offensive but says it was included in training for a reason. “It’s a historical piece. This was history. It was a groundbreaking article that commended the work he was doing in the community,” Lt. Knighten said.


Sgt. Scott, a 20 year law enforcement veteran also claims there were anti-Obama posters in the locker room and racist comments made about a local mural.  And even though the jury went against him, he believes bringing attention to the issue of racism in the department was more important than winning.


“Maybe something better will come out of this because it’s not going away. The cops who made comments about black faces, they’re still working – and nothing’s been done about it,” Sgt. Scott said.


After five weeks of testimony and days of deliberation the jury said they believed Sgt. Scott was offended by the cartoon, but did not feel it was intended racism.


“They immediately stopped using the cartoon and that’s where it should have stopped, but there are superiors with attitudes who try to intimidate and bully,” Sgt. Scott said.


The jury also dismissed allegations the department retaliated against Sgt Scott after he spoke up. They believed the city’s claim that Scott was transferred and denied a promotion because he spent significant time when he was supposed to be on patrol at his home outside the city limits and he put officers at risk by ignoring policy when confronting a man armed with a sword. Sgt. Scott plans to remain on the force.


“I will continue to speak out about racism as long as I’m part of this police department,” he said.


To be clear, that cartoon will not be used in any future police training.


Sgt. Scott says when he retires from the police department he hopes to become a civil rights attorney.


Here is a statement issued to CW6 News from the San Diego Police Department:


“The San Diego Police Department values the diversity and talent of all of our officers, professional civilian staff and more than 600 volunteers. Our success in community policing would not be possible without their hard work and dedication to making San Diego one of the safest large cities in the United States.”


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