By NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi Highway Patrol officers stand as the universally visible presence of government in our state – uniformed, trained and diligent in providing public protection, enforcement and investigation on the state’s roadways and beyond.
When their ranks rumble with discontent, and the problems become public discussion, repercussions are inevitable, and the need for action to resolve issues becomes acute.
Allegations by at least some African-American troopers of racial bias practiced against them within the patrol require resolution and disclosure because the patrol’s undisputed history of racial discrimination always hangs over its present.
Two hundred eight of Mississippi’s 607 state troopers are African-American.
In parallel, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s finding of substance in a complaint from the NAACP alleging bias in treatment and promotion practices, requires a timely official (that is, state) response.
The Highway Patrol came into the world of integrated workplaces under a court’s consent decree – as did some school districts and various other public entities.
Most state agencies have moved past issues of workplace discrimination. It’s time for the Highway Patrol to take a hard look at itself and see what, if any, vestiges of a discriminatory, racist past remain.
The agency “discriminated against Blacks as a class because of their race with respect to assignment, demotions, discharges, discipline, harassment, hiring, intimidation, hostile work environment, promotions and the overall terms and conditions of their employment,” the EEOC report said.
The EEOC’s findings were included with a path to conciliation – steps which would bring closure to the larger issues and prevent the filing of lawsuits seeking damages.
The provisions include:
– Adoption of a new promotion system free of internal influence and manipulation, with the help of an independent agency;
– Require racial diversity training for all sworn personnel (which would include officers);
– Revamp the personnel assignments system;
– Revamp the method of special duty assignments; and,
– Pay $1.5 million in damages divided among the “aggrieved officers.”
The state has 14 days from June 1 to make its response.
Federal law is crystal clear: Racial discrimination is illegal under the Constitution.
The Highway Patrol won a national award earlier this year for its uniforms’ design.
It’s more important to be known as a fully fair employer.