Testimony in discrimination suit highlights Richmond promotion demographics

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Cleveland Brown, left, and Jonathan Matthews. (Rachel Waldholz/RichmondConfidential)

In court on Thursday, Jonathan Matthews, attorney for plaintiff Lieutenant Cleveland Brown in the racial discrimination lawsuit against the city of Richmond and Chief of Police Chris Magnus, continued with questioning Magnus about his actions during a staff retreat in Napa in late 2006.

The seven plaintiffs are all black commanders within the police department and have alleged that Magnus and then-Deputy Chief Lori Ritter prevented the advancement of black officers and cracked racist jokes. In addition to Brown, the other plaintiffs are Capt. Eugene McBride, Sgt. James Jenkins and four other lieutenants: Arnold Threets, Shawn Pickett, Michael Booker and Johan Simon.

On Thursday, Matthews asked Magnus about his reasons for calling the Napa retreat.

“I wanted to remind my management team that they were a leader regardless of rank,” said Magnus. “We may all have different backgrounds, but we still had the common respect and goal to provide leadership in the department. I wanted to talk about leadership, how we are perceived in the community, and race relations and cliques in the department.”

During the cross examination, defense lawyer Arthur Hartinger produced a memorandum in which plaintiff Lieutenant Shawn Pickett described his opinion of Captains Cleveland Brown and Eugene McBride—who are also both plaintiffs—in a response to a questionnaire Magnus had sent out to officers. He wrote, “In my opinion, they care more about being liked than being effective. They have avoided confronting the people that need confronting, while overloading their workers with non essential assignments.”

When asked by Hartinger if any of the other command staff had made comments about the captains, Magnus testified that Lieutenant Arnold Threets—also a plaintiff—had the harshest criticism of McBride and Brown.

“Arnold was surprisingly negative about a great deal of his peers,” said Magnus. “He made it clear I had inherited two captains that were incompetent. He even said that every village has an idiot, and we have two of them.”

Hartinger also showcased data on the demographics of all the promotions for deputy chief, captain, sergeant, and lieutenant positions under Magnus since January, 2006. The data showed that Magnus promoted more non-white officers to higher ranks than white officers, including promoting three black officers to captain and six black officers to sergeant.

Hartinger’s cross-examination of Magnus is expected to continue on Friday.

One Comment

  1. Louis Calabro

    Louis Calabro
    February 29, 2012 at 11:49 am
    I suggest that a background investigation of the Plaintiffs be initiated to determine how they performed in elementary and high schools.

    The problem of some schools engaging in the practice of “social promotion” has many citizens concerned as to whether this practice involved the Plaintiffs.

    What’s their IQ level.

    I wonder if their advancement to Captain’s in the department involved Affirmative Action practices in Richmond.

    IMHO those questions should be addressed by the court and the press.

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