City of SD Settles Wrongful Termination Case With SDPD Officer Who Claimed Racial Discrimination

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The City of San Diego paid a terminated San Diego Police officer $50,000 after he accused the department of creating a “racially hostile environment.”

A 19-year veteran of the department, Officer Jeffrey Stewart sued the city in 2018 after supervisors recommended he be fired the year before, according to a complaint obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.

In the 27-page legal filing, Stewart says he was stripped of his “police powers” after speaking out about alleged discrimination against a fellow African American officer.

Stewart alleges he was “retaliated against, harassed and discriminated against for being African-American, for reporting his work-related disability and for speaking publicly and internally about his mistreatment and the mistreatment of others,” according to the complaint.

Public records obtained by NBC 7 Investigates showed Nov. 6, the City of San Diego cut five checks totaling $50,000 for the full and final settlement of the wrongful termination case.

San Diego Police did not immediately return a request for comment.

This allegation of internal discrimination comes as the department has battled charges of discrimination within the department for a number of years.

In 2016, a study released by San Diego State University reported there was a severe disparity between the number of black and white drivers pulled over by SDPD.

Adding Black and Hispanic drivers were more likely than white drivers to be searched following a traffic stop.

Just last month, a study funded by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties said that SDPD pulled over black people at a 219% higher rate than white people.

SDPD strongly pushed back against that report.

In April, San Diego’s Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations published a report providing recommendations for SDPD to improve race relations in the city.

Responding to the report just last month, SDPD wrote “All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty. At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”

The response stated former SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman acknowledged “that every human being, including police officers, has bias,” and current SDPD Chief David Nisleit has implemented changes, including additional training and working with a think tank to use data to make more institutional changes.

Attorneys for Stewart have not yet returned our request for comment.

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