A federal jury on Monday (June 13) awarded a Black Columbus, Ohio police officer only $2 in a 2018 civil rights lawsuit over the police department’s racial discrimination and retaliation against her.
But apparently, it wasn’t about the money because Lt. Melissa McFadden is pleased with the award, her lawyer explained to The Columbus Dispatch.
"It was more about the principle than money. She feels like really she won," McFadden’s attorney, John Marshall, told the newspaper.
McFadden, who has alleged widespread racism on the police force, filed the lawsuit after she was reassigned in 2017 to the department’s property room because of a federal equal employment opportunity complaint (EEOC) against her. The complaint alleged that McFadden created a hostile work environment and was racially biased for inflating the performance evaluation of a Black sergeant.
Working in the property room involved physical labor that caused McFadden to suffer an injury, her lawsuit said. The lawsuit alleged that other officers who had similar EEOC complaints didn’t receive similar punishment.
An internal investigation of McFadden recommended her termination, accusing her of fostering a “Black militancy mindset” and an “us-versus-them” attitude in favoring Black officers over white officers. But the city’s public safety director declined to fire McFadden because the Internal investigation failed to meet its burden of proof.
She accused the department of retaliation in her lawsuit and in 2020 self-published a book, titled Walking the Thin Black Line, about the racism she experiences in the police force.
The introduction reads, “There is one voice missing in our national outrage over police brutality: the Black officer. They walk a thin black line every time they put on their uniform. A tightrope, really. On one side is the Black community they strive to serve and protect from unjust treatment. On the other, a racist institution where they experience ongoing discrimination themselves. Retaliation is swift when they dare to expose the motivation or execution of the many tactics used to brutalize citizens and intimidate minority officers.”
McFadden’s attorney said she’s still working for the police department in the officer wellness bureau and expects a promotion to commander.
After winning her lawsuit against the city, she plans to ask federal Judge Edmund Sargus to order city officials to pay her legal fees. McFadden also wants her personnel file expunged and the department barred from using prior disciplinary measures against her in the future.
Additionally, she wants the judge to order the police department to isssue "a communication to all CDP officers that the discrimination and retaliation are regretted and CDP looks forward to many more years of Lt. McFadden’s contribution to its mission," Marshall said.
In a statement to The Dispatch, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s officer said, "The City Attorney’s office takes seriously any allegations of retaliation and discrimination by city employers. We thank the judge and jury for taking the time necessary to understand, deliberate and decide this case. We respect their decision."