By Kent Larsen
Mesa Police Officers Claim Discrimination By LDS Superiors
MESA, ARIZONA -- In a third major incident this year involving the
heavily Mormon eatstern Phoenix suburbs of Mesa and Gilbert, a group of nine
disgruntled police officers have filed a discrimination lawsuit
against their department. The lawsuit claims that the department illegally
favored other officers over them because of race and religion. The Mesa
police chief is LDS and the officers claim that their superiors favored LDS
officers over them.
The officers filed their lawsuit Monday, deciding not to wait for the
results of a departmental Board of Inquiry, called last June by Chief
Jan Strauss to investigate the officers' complaints. Strauss said she
received a report back from the Board of Inquiry last week, and will meet with
the board this week to clarify some issues. "I am anxious for all
the facts to come out," Strauss said. "I think it's very unfortunate
that they've chosen to file a lawsuit when we've taken steps to address their issues. I
think it's very unfortunate that they've chosen to file a lawsuit before we
had the results of the Board of Inquiry."
The officer's complaints include claims that they were passed over
for promotion in favor of lesser qualified officers because of religion
and refused transfers because of race and religion. One officer says he
was forced to resign "because he complained about an unfair and
unjust policy . . . that was depriving [him] of valid overtime pay." Another
said he "has not received transfers because the person making the decision was LDS
and selected less-qualified and trained LDS officers."
Earlier this year, the the East Valley Chapter of the NAACP filed a
discrimination lawsuit against the Gilbert Unified School
District, saying that the district discriminated against blacks. That lawsuit also
claimed that the district favored Mormons over everyone else. And an October
article in the Los Angeles Times connected a violent and racist gang in the
area with the local LDS culture.
But LDS officials are participating with efforts to correct the
problems with racism in the community. Gilbert-area stake president John Lewis
is serving as a president of the Gilbert Diversity Task Force at the
invitation of Gilbert's Mayor.
Mesa police officers accuse department of discrimination
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 5Dec00 D1
By Paul Matthews: Arizona Republic