An anti-discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals service that has dragged along for almost three decades is finally inching its way toward an actual hearing in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Washington Post reports.
Lawsuits alleging institutional racism inside of any American law enforcement agency are neither new nor surprising as we’ve known forever that bias is baked into the profession at every level. But the allegations in the class action against the Marshals are still striking, outmatched only by the number and length of delays in getting the case to move along.
They say one of the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies — tasked with protecting courthouses, transporting prisoners, shielding witnesses and tracking down fugitives — has failed to confront decades of discrimination.
They recounted stories of debilitating stress; needlessly contentious hiring interviews that could end after a single question; job openings suddenly closed after Black people rose to the top of the selection process; and indignation at training White newcomers who quickly became their supervisors. Some estimate they lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in income. Many remembered White colleagues telling racist jokes or using the n-word to demean fellow employees and prisoners of color, without apparent repercussions.
The case is actually referred to by the name of a former Black U.S. Marshal, Matthew Fogg, who himself fought the agency over discrimination in its ranks for 13 years before he was awarded $4 million by a jury in 1998. The class action that grew out of his effort could impact more than 10,000 current and former employees of the Marshals Service.
According to the Post’s story, potentially thousands of Marshals service employees were denied promotions, given the runarouund when applying or subjected to racism. In one instance, a Black marshal applying for a promotion was told they needed to fly from DC to Ohio, only to find out white candidates were being interviewed in DC. Many Black marshals said they witnessed white marshals calling Black prisoners the n-word. Others said they were mistaken by their white colleagues for suspects turning themselves in.
So essentially another day at the office in American law enforcement. Happy Wednesday.