GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — Three Maryland State Police officers have filed a proposed federal class-action lawsuit against the department, alleging widespread racial discrimination in the agency.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, alleges that the state police disciplines officers of color more harshly than white officers. The 36-page complaint alleges that the state police agency, or MSP, also denied promotions and retaliated against officers of color who spoke out against how they are treated.
It also alleges that the agency maintained a hostile work environment by subjecting officers of color to “racist comments and symbols such as using a paper training dummy at a MSP shooting range with a black face and ‘Afro wig’ for officers to shoot at.”
The force is currently under investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice announced in July that it was conducting a probe of whether the agency’s hiring and promotion practices are racially discriminatory.
The lawsuit proposes a class made up of officers of color who were disciplined, denied promotions or otherwise discriminated against from October 2019 to the present day. A judge would have to approve the group before the lawsuit could move forward as class action litigation.
The plaintiffs are Byron Tribue and Matin Dunlap, Black men who are currently officers with the agency, and Analisse Diaz, a Black Puerto Rican woman who was terminated by the department in 2019.
In a statement, the police agency said the complaint is under legal review and the department cannot share information about the allegations in the lawsuit.
“The Maryland Department of State Police remains committed to providing the highest quality of law enforcement services to the people of Maryland, while ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all employees,” the department said. “Significant actions have been taken and are continuing to address even the perception of racism or unfair treatment of any kind.”
The complaint alleges that Tribue, who is Black, has been subjected to discrimination and retaliation by the department, including being suspended for 301 days for an alleged one-hour error in recording his time card, and being denied promotions during the course of his employment with the agency.
The court filing also alleges that the department retaliated against Dunlap, who is Black, after he complained that a white corporal placed a banana on his work vehicle. The corporal was not disciplined and has been repeatedly promoted, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that Diaz, who is a Black Puerto Rican woman, has been subjected to discrimination, including her termination after eight years as a state trooper.
“Throughout her time at MSP, Officer Diaz faced a work environment permeated with racism,” the complaint said. “For example, Officer Diaz’s First Sergeant told her that he did not think it was a ‘big deal’ to say the ‘n-word’ or words to that effect.”
The complaint cited another occasion when Diaz was cleaning something in a barrack, when she was told that the state police “should hire her as the cleaning staff.”