Posted May 1, 2008- The U.S. Secret Service, the federal agency whose No. 1 job is to protect the president, has released a White agent after a Black employee said he found a noose hanging at the main training facility near Washington, D.C.
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“The employee involved has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by our Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs office,” Edwin M. Donovan, assistant special agent in charge of government and public affairs, wrote in an e-mail response to Cox Newspapers.“At the conclusion of the investigation, additional information may be available.”
The noose incident comes at a time when the agency is battling image problems concerning charges that it is a bastion of racial hostility. A federal judge is supposed to decide next month whether the Secret Service should be penalized for withholding evidence in a long-running civil suit alleging discrimination, Cox reports.
The lawsuit claims that the Secret Service regularly and systematically discriminates against African-American agents seeking promotion in favor of White agents who scored lower on promotional exams. Some 60 Black agents have submitted sworn statements backing up the allegations.
The judge already has sanctioned the agency three times since the lawsuit began nearly four years ago. The Secret Service is appealing her rulings. Fellow agents acknowledge that a veteran agent is responsible for the misconduct at the J.J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Md., and that an employee has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.
A Black officer in the uniform division found the noose on April 14. “We are appalled but unfortunately not surprised that a noose was prominently displayed recently in a secret service training center,” Jennifer Klar, a lawyer at Relman & Dane.Klar told Cox in an interview.
“This incident of racial hatred is troubling in an agency that has the important duty of protecting world leaders of all races, including our own leaders such as (presidential candidate) Barack Obama and (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice. This racist incident is a reminder that long time discrimination in the secret service has created an atmosphere where such hateful acts occur all too regularly,” Klar said.
In recent months, the service was criticized for allowing thousands to enter an arena in Dallas to hear Obama speak without being properly searched.
Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the service, said, “The Secret Service is extremely proud of the accomplishments of our diverse work force and our record on diversity. The Secret Service has not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”