Jenkins testimony continues in discrimination suit
on January 28, 2012
On the sixth day of testimony Thursday, Sergeant James Jenkins, a plaintiff in the discrimination lawsuit against the city of Richmond, police Chief Chris Magnus and former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter, testified that there was a buddy system in place when it came to picking candidates for the Richmond Police Department’s Investigative Services Division.
In 2007, eight high-ranking African American police officers sued the city of Richmond, accusing Magnus and Ritter of racial discrimination through blocking the advancement of black officers, making racist jokes and retaliating against them for drawing attention to racial tensions in the department. The attorneys representing the city have argued that the complaints stem from an effort to undermine Magnus, who had recently become the chief.
Jenkins has previously testified in court that he believed he had been unfairly prevented from joining the department’s Investigative Services Division (ISD), and that the rules for joining had been changed after he applied. Jenkins said he believed the changes to the ISD qualifications weren’t racially motivated until hearing from a captain in the department that “Chief Magnus said he didn’t want a ‘black out’ in ISD.”
When asked Thursday by his attorney Stephen R. Jaffe if he believed that Magnus used the fairest possible process when selecting positions for ISD, Jenkins replied, “No, I do believe that Chief Magnus screened out a number of applicants from the process.”
During cross examination, defense attorney Geoffrey Spellberg asked Jenkins if he would have changed his testimony had Magnus made a different comment, and Jenkins replied “If that was the case, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion.” Jenkins stated that he believed Magnus promoted his friends when it came to selecting candidates for ISD and that it had been this way for a long time.
“To me, the chief’s actions were clear,” said Jenkins. “It looked like a sham.”
Jenkins also had testified that his name was removed from the overtime list by former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter when he applied to get compensation for overtime work in 2006. Jenkins felt that he was denied a salary increase for not getting paid for overtime.
But the defense argued that Jenkins’ pay had increased dramatically over the last few years. Writing on a large whiteboard facing the jurors, Spellberg countered that Jenkins had seen wage increases and was making at least $179,248 in 2009 and that his pay had risen to $223,953 in 2011.
During cross examination, Spellberg referred to an Internal Affairs investigation filed against Jenkins involving the advice he gave to an apartment owner who had a complaint about people from a neighborhood apartment putting trash in his can. Jenkins had told the apartment owner to call the garbage company, which could provide him a can with a locking lid.
“You’ve stated you felt the investigation was in retaliation for your lawsuit against the city, right?” asked Spellberg.
“Yes,” replied Jenkins.
“The date of charges [in the lawsuit against the city] was November 27th, 2006, but the date of completion for the investigation was October 31st, 2006,” said Spellberg. “If the investigation was clear and finished before you filed, it can’t possibly be in retaliation can it?”
“I don’t believe it was completed,” replied Jenkins.
The trial is expected to continue for at least two months, keeping much of the police department’s command staff in Martinez through March.
The other plaintiffs in the suit are Capt. Eugene McBride, Sgt. James Jenkins and five lieutenants: Brown, Arnold Threets, Shawn Pickett, Michael Booker and Johan Simon. Magnus is expected to testify next week.
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