Two Black men filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Columbus, saying they were not offered a spot in the Columbus police training academy because of their race.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, states that Moses Iverson, of New Albany, and Darren Kendall, of Cleveland, both applied to be Columbus police officers in April 2019.
But neither man was offered a conditional spot in the 134th recruit class at the James G. Jackson Columbus Police Academy. The lawsuit contends that white men with more-concerning backgrounds were offered spots over Iverson and Kendall because of their race.
In a statement to The Dispatch, the city’s Department of Public Safety said it could not comment on pending litigation.
“We can state the City does not engage in, or tolerate, discriminatory hiring practices,” the department said.
According to the lawsuit, both Kendall and Iverson scored in the top tier of candidates on a written test and participated in oral board interviews, as well as polygraph examinations.
Both men received letters from the city in April 2020, informing them that their applications had been rejected. The letters did not contain specific information as to why they were rejected, but according to the lawsuit, both men reached out and asked.
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The lawsuit said Iverson was told he was rejected because of failing to pay back taxes and having some accounts being disputed while in collections, as well as a previous accusation of an inappropriate workplace comment. The victim in that incident had written Iverson a letter of recommendation, the lawsuit said.
Kendall was told he was rejected because he had held several jobs over the last few years and had resigned in lieu of being fired from a job as a refuse collector with the city of Columbus for several “minor traffic accidents,” the lawsuit said.
“These reasons were a pretext for race discrimination. These same, similar, or far more-egregious issues did not stop the city from hiring Caucasian applicants who, quite frankly, have no business being a police officer,” the lawsuit said.
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In the lawsuit, six examples are given of issues involving white men and one white woman who were accepted into the same class Kendall and Iverson had applied to join.
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The background information for those candidates included admitting to paying prostitutes for sex, statutory rape, engaging in sexual activity while on the job, use of illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin and MDMA, driving while under the influence, stealing money from an employer and admitting to selling drugs.
“When a police department hires Caucasians who have, as one applicant was described, ‘consistently showed a pattern of theft from places of work, drug usage, illegal sexual acts, and altercations with coworkers or supervisors,’ over two qualified African Americans, then there is something wrong,” the lawsuit said.
Kendall and Iverson sued the city of Columbus, as well as former Safety Director Ned Pettus. The lawsuit also names William Mark Gramlich, who Pettus previously told The Dispatch provided him summaries of candidates to decide on who to offer positions at the academy.
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The lawsuit also names police officers Jack Adkins, Dan Edelsberg, Nathan Wilson and David Hamon and Department of Public Safety Human Resources employee Mykhaylo “Mike” Rusetsky, all of whom participated in one or both of the oral board interviews for Kendall and Iverson. All of the men are white.
According to the lawsuit, 55 people were invited to join the academy class. Of those, 39 were white and eight were Black.
Kendall and Iverson filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received letters back saying they could sue, according to the lawsuit.
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The city has touted increased diversity in recent police recruit classes. A recruit class is scheduled to graduate next week.
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