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Marshal Racists Spark Suits

Minorities: Discrimination rampant among fed cops

By William Sherman and Daniel GoldFarb

New York Post, Sunday, March 16, 1997

Copyright protected

The U.S. Marshals Service is riddled with blatant, sometimes violent racism in its offices in New York and throughout the country, a Post investigation has found.

The service's biased hiring and promotion practices seem to be fueling the open bigotry.

Statistics reveal that 264 of the 292 deputy marshals hired last year were white. They are working for a 3,987 member work force that is 79% white.

In a series of interviews, black and white deputy marshals providing chilling details of incident after incident of on-the-job discrimination they've either faced or witnessed.

Their accounts of bias at work included:

The white deputy, who is assigned to the service's Manhattan office, said he has been ostracized at work as a "nigger lover" and was beaten by a white colleague for supporting his black partner's discrimination complaints.

Examples of systemic bias and glaring acts of discrimination are included in a series of equal-opportunity complaints and federal suits filed in the last few years.

Most include allegations that those who file complaints suffer immediate retaliation.

In one pending suit, Ruth Worsely, a supervisory deputy marshal in New Jersey, charges she was assigned "to perform primarily secretarial and administrative duties" because she is black -- despite her high-ranking position.

Worsely, who joined the service in 1979 and worked her way up through the ranks, says he has been continually humiliated on the job.

She says she has been forced to use the same restroom as male deputies, has been excluded from supervisory staff meetings, and has been prevented from using the official car assigned to her.

The most shocking complaint in her suit was an account of the day a white deputy appeared in the Newark office in a white sheet and meanaced a snumber of black female employees.

One of those terrorized by the hateful KKK-like display was Joan Cobbs, a 55-year-old seizure and forfeiture specialist. She was so upset and intimidated that she quit the service.

The white deputy was not disciplined. Instead, he was transferred to his home state of Ohio - as he had requested.

I'm going to win this lawsuit and get my rights", said Worsley, 54. She said she has no intention of quitting her job.

Arthur Lloyd, a black deputy marshal who works in Washington, D.C. , claims he's been the target of life-threatening racism. Lloyd said white deputies took immediate revenge on him after he filed a discrimination complaint contending he had been denied a promotion due him. "I was in a cellblock taking handcuffs off of prisoners who were ringleaders in a prison riot when a white supervisor locked me in the cell," he said. "All the white deputies had left and I came very close to getting killed. They locked me in there for 30 minutes and the only reason I got out was because they had to bring in the prisoners' lunch wagon and unlocked the door."

Another black deputy marshal, Matthew Fogg, described how his white colleagues on the fugitive task force left him to fend for himself while he was making a particularly dangerous arrest. "This guy, a major drug dealer, Michael Lucas, was doing 20-to-life for murder and he escaped from prison in Texas," said Fogg, who has helped nab more than 270 fugitives since joining the service in 1978. "Lucas was one of the top 15 fugitives in the country, and we tracked him down. He pulled a gun on me, but I wrestled him down. The white deputies knew when the bust was coming, but in the end, where were they? They left their posts."

In 1991, Fogg won the service's highest honor, the Director's Honorary Award, for his leadership on the task force.

In a discrimination complaint, Fogg alleges that he's suffered "substantial racial bias." He states he has been denied promotions, and after he complained, was assigned to a "dead-end" desk job. "They forced me out of the service," said Fogg, who claims that superiors threatened him with further retailiation if he didn't drop his complaint.

"The stress got too much for me and I filed a Workers' Compensation Board claim -- 'stress-related disorder caused by discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.'" The board upheld Fogg's claim.

After some time passed, his superiors forced Fogg back to work. When he and his physician said he was not ready, he was dismissed from the service for insubordination -- despite the workers' comp ruling.

Fogg's discrimination suit against the service -- in which he seeks more than $1 million in damages -- is scheduled to go to trial in Federal court in Washington in May.  Fogg said he is also organizing a minority class-action suit against the service.

Another black marshal, Vincent Johnson, claims his troubles as a deputy began because he was doing so well. "I was one of three blacks from around the country picked to attend Special Operations Group School, that's the Marshal's equivalent of a SWAT team. There were 40 whites in my class," said Johnson. He claimed the white instructors "constantly ridiculed" the blacks and drummed the two other blacks out of the school. "I wasn't fazed because I was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, honorably discharged, but when I complained about the other blacks in the class getting kicked out for no reason, the next day I was thrown out." It was four days before graduation, from the eight-week school, said Johnson.

He added that when he returned to headquarters, "they trumped up some stuff about my original application to the service and fired me. I couldn't understand it. All my test scores were in the top 5 percent."

That was nine years ago. Johnson's discrimination complaint has still not be resolved. After he left the service, he joined the State Department's diplomatic security corps, and is now a special agent for the Pennsylvania attorney general, specializing in narcotics investigations.

William Dempsey, a service spokesman, refused to comment on any of these cases. He said the agency does not comment on individual employee complaints or lawsuits. But he noted that since Eduardo Gonzalez was appointed head of the service by President Clinton in 1993, the number of discrimination and sexual-harassment complaints filed by agency employees has dropped from 125 to 66.

Dempsey added that the service is taking other steps to alleviate various imbalances in the system. But at the same time, said Dempsey, "The service is not acknowledging that any mistakes were made."

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