Two police officers, one Black and one white, sued their police chief for racial discrimination because they were disciplined differently for using the same slur, according to The Enquirer. The jury ended up deadlocked after deliberating for eight hours. This case is interesting on its own but what’s more interesting is the question it poses: Who should get in trouble for saying the N-word?
Donte Hill (Black) and Dennis Barnette (white) were caught on video using the racial slur in separate incidents in 2018, the report says. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac allegedly disciplined them in different ways. While Hill received a written reprimand, Barnette was suspended of police powers, given the attention his remarks gathered from city leaders and the media.
However, the police chief was reminded of Hill’s case, reopened it and settled on the same punishment for both officers. The officers argued by the time he rethought his decisions, the damage had already been done.
More on the incident from The Enquirer:
Eventually, he suspended the police powers of both officers and gave them both 56-hour, unpaid suspensions. He also issued a statement saying Hill’s initial punishment was an oversight.
Lawyers for the officers said this was just an excuse. They said Isaac knowingly set the bar with Hill’s discipline, but levied a harsher penalty against Barnette, in part, because he was white.
In the lawsuit, Hill argues he was targeted unfairly due to his race when his punishment was increased. His lawyer said this was an effort by the chief to level the playing field.
Both sides acknowledged that much of the case hinged on whether the jury believed Isaac’s version of events or not.
The officers’ punishments were overturned during labor arbitration and they were compensated for their loss in income when their police powers were stripped, according to the report. Though, the all-white jury couldn’t decide whether they believed Chief Isaac’s version of the story.
Should a white person receive a different punishment than a Black person for using the N-word?
I must admit, hearing the hard “R” from a white person definitely feels Jim Crow racist versus a Black man shouting “you niggas out here acting stupid!” However, if you have a code of conduct to follow that bars the use of slurs, both sides should respect it and be disciplined accordingly.
According to the report, the trial was rescheduled for Aug. 16 and lawyers for the officers asked for the two to be rewarded $15,000 each.