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Partners describe more racist hell rides with the U.S. Service

Yesterday, the Post reported that the U.S. Marshals Service is riddled with blatant, sometimes violent racism in its offices in New York and throughout the country -- a problem apparently fueled by biased hiring practices. In today's installment, The Post reveals the experiences of two partners -- one black, one white -- in the agency's Manhattan office.

By William Sherman and Daniel Goldfarb

Monday, March 17, 1997

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For Bill Scott, who is black, and Steve Zanowic, who is white, working as partners in the U.S. Marshals office in Manhattan was a racist hell. The two men, as deputy marshals in the warrant squad, were frequent partners in hunting down dangerous fugitives, killers, drug dealers and escaped prisoners. From the day they met in 1988, they said, they were caught in a terrifying spiral of discrimination. There were death threats and physical violence -- including a crippling beating for Zanowic by a white supervisor and a setup by white deputies that almost resulted in Scott's murder.

A spokesman for the Marshals Service said the agency will not comment on their claims -- or on other individivual cases. And Martin Burke, the area's U.S. Marshal said he was not familiar with their charges because he had only recently joined the Marshals Service.

But Scott, 57, and Zanowic, 42, have records documenting their experiences. Both have filed discrimination complaints. Racial epithets, they said, were routine. When Scott wasn't around, Zanowic said, whites in the office referred to Scott as "that shiftless nigger' and "coon". "I was amazed. I mean, didn't they know who Bill Scott is?" Zanowic asked.

Scott joined the service in 1970 after winning citations and an honorable discharge from the Marines. In the years that followed, he racked up hundreds of arrests and dozens of commendations. And in 1991, he was voted Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the American Police Hall of Fame, the first black person to win that honor. But over the years, Scott also had filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints claiming discrimination in assignments and his rate of promotion. In fact, Scott's superiors tried to stop him from getting the Hall of Fame award, according to Gerald Arenberg, former executive director of that organization.

"I got a call from Scott's boss, and he told me he had much better candidates for the prize, not to give it to Scott, and why hadn't we cleared the award with the Service and the Justice Department," Arenberg said. "We gave Scott he prize anyway, in part because he was stabbed several times while bringing in some prisoners in a car and he didn't lose them."

Zanowic recalled that after Scott received the award and filed his discrimination complaint, white deputes accelerated their racist campaign. Both he and Scott said they found pictures of rats on their desk and had their lockers broken into. Scott's unlisted number was given to criminals who called him with death threats.

"When I started working with him and became his friend, they started calling me a 'nigger lover' and 'Bill Scott's half-breed son,'" said Zanowic. Then a supervisor told me my career would advance only if I disassociated myself from Scott and got in with the white guys. You know, "Get with the Program".

Zanowic said one day "Scott was walking down the stairs, and two white deputies behind him pulled their weapons and said they would 'take the nigger out'".

Shortly after Scott reported the incident to a superior, a white deputy stuck a gun in his chest and said, "Pow, pow, you're dead," Zanowic said.

On another ocassion, Zanowic said he took what he described as "a direct hit" after he filed his own complaint about discrimination and the retaliation he had suffered for supporting Scott's allegations.

At a baton training session in a vacant courtroom at 40 Foley Square, he said, a supervising training officer slammed him in the groin while demonstrating how to use the weapon. "I went unconscious", recalled Zanowic, who said he was left lying on the courtroom floor for four hours until he was able to pick himself up and go to the hospital. "I was out of work for five months and then returned to light duty," he said.

Scott and Zanowic said they also experienced and witnessed racism when they were on assignment together.

At a July 1992 weapons qualification exercise at an upstate Army base, both said they saw white marshals use Martin Luther King's picture for target practice. And, they said, when they made arrests, their superior tried to take the credit away from them. An 8 year-old black girl from The Bronx whose body had been found wedged into a crevice in the sea wall under the Triborough Bridge. Their boss insisted that they give credit for the arrest to another white deputy.

"We refused to put down the white deputy's name," Scott said. A few days later, Scott and Zanowic founnd nude and defaced autopsy pictures of Shemika on their desks along with racial epithets. There were obscene racist cartoons placed on their desks as well, and a defaced photo of Zanowic's wife.

A few months later, Scott said, he was set up by white deputies to face the bullets of an armed fugitive. "I was leading the stakeout team to pick up this guy, Brian Flowers, a fugitive wanted for drug and weapons dealing. We tracked Flowers down to his girlfriend's house in Brooklyn," said Scott. "We had radios, and all of a sudden, I see Flowers walking toward me across the street, and I called out the code on the radio, 'Green Light!  Green Light!' but my backup team somehow disappeared. Nobody came."

Soctt said he pulled out his badge and gun as Flowers continued toward him, and announced, "U.S. marshals, you're under arrest." "Flowers pulled out his gun and fired a shot at me. I ducked behind a car and fired back. Where was my backup, three other deputies? Nowhere," Scott continued.

"Flowers was running down the street. I chased him. He fired another shot at me. I kept running after him into a building. Still, nobody was there from my backup." It was 20 minutes before the members of his backup team appeared and 10 minutes more before Flowers was found hiding in the basement, said Scott.

The result was not a commendation for Scott nor an investigation into whether the whites on his backup team had deliberately abandoned him. Instead, he was brought up on charges of recklessly firing his gung without justification. But Scott's bosses offered him a deal.

According to Scott and a written agreement drawn up by Gary Meade, then the personnel director of the Service, if Scott agreed to drop his discrimination complaint he would be assigned to drug-enforcement duty in Manhattan. But if he kept pressing his complaint, he would be demoted from deputy marshal/senior criminal investigator.

The demotion from the supervisory post would mean a $10,000 a year pay cut. Scott refused to sign the agreement. He took the demotion and pay cut and was about to be transferred to Buffalo when he decied to retire after 25 years with the Service.

The EEOC judge who heard Scott's discrimination case ruled in his favor, finding that the retired deputy "was subjected to a hostile work environment on the Warrant Squad due to his race...."

Marshal Service lawyers are appealing the decision.

Scott is also taking his case to federal court, where he is seeking compensatory damages and court-ordered changes in the hiring and promotion practices of the Marshals Srvices.

"I'm a patient man," Scott said. "I served with the Marshals for 25 years. I can wait."

Zanowic is still working as a deputy marshal in New York. "What I do is basically ... escorting prisoners in cell blocks and to court, nothing that would advance my career. No more assignment to the Fugitive Squad", said Zanowic, a nine-year veteran.

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