What civil rights probe says about police discrimination accusations

Dayton’s highest-ranking black, female police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the police department, alleging discrimination.

Dayton police Lt. Kimberly Hill filed the lawsuit after receiving a letter of determination from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission indicating they found probable cause that a discriminatory act took place.

The commission reviewed the case twice before issuing the determination.

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This newspaper has obtained many of the pertinent documents from the civil rights commission’s investigation into Hill’s accusations.

Here are some of the most notable details from that investigation.

Lt. Hill’s accusations

Hill, 58, claims she dealt with ageism, racism and sexism during her 29-year career with the Dayton police department.

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Commission documents include a letter from the city stating it has no knowledge of the complaints from Hill about discrimination and denies her charges.

But Hill claims the discrimination became too much after she took over as commander of the Professional Standards Bureau, which handles citizens’ complaints against officers and was formerly called internal affairs, according to her complaints to the civil rights commission.

Hill says she encountered hostility from her subordinates, including two white, male sergeants, because she tried to make meaningful changes to the way the bureau responded to citizens’ complaints against officers, her complaint and federal lawsuit say.

Hill claims the city instituted new assessment procedures when she and at least one other candidate of color were seeking a promotion, instead of following the usual standards of evaluation based on seniority and experience.

She claims educational requirements were implemented that gave preference to candidates with certain types of degrees, including criminal justice and law enforcement, according to her civil rights complaint.

Hill claims the city added qualifications to disqualify her —a claim the city denies. The city says the changes were to make the selection process more objective.

Hill alleges that she was subjected to harassment and different terms and conditions of employment and also was denied a promotion because of her race and in retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint with the civil rights commission, according to the lawsuit and the civil rights documents. [same]

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Statements from officers in Hill’s department

In interviews with commission investigators, multiple police officers in the Professional Standards Bureau said Hill was not finishing findings from citizens’ complaints in a timely manner.

Police Sgt. Tim Reboulet, a veteran of the department of 27 years, told investigators Hill has done a bad job because her work is not done on time, according to a transcript of the interview.

The officer, who is about 54, white and male, also criticized Hill’s investigation into an officer he says was pressured into retiring in 2014.

A few officers said they felt Hill unfairly ended the officer’s career even though they described him as a good cop and a hard worker.

“They ran out one of the best officers … one of the most intelligent officers; they ran him out and drug him through the mud,” said police Sgt. Robert Rike, who is white, male and about 50 years old in an interview with investigators.

Sgt. Rike also told investigators that Hill does not communicate with him, seems to lack interpersonal skills and should not be at the bureau, the transcripts state.

Lt. Col. Matt Carper, assistant police chief, said the two sergeants were having trouble accepting Hill and had “reservations” about her qualifications for the job, according to the transcripts.

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Civil Rights determination

Earlier this year, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission dismissed Hill’s complaint against the police department after concluding its investigation.

The commission ruled that there was no probable cause the department engaged in unlawful discriminatory practice.

But Hill asked for the commission to reconsider the case, according to the commission documents.

The commission, after reviewing the case’s details and additional evidence, issued a determination finding probable cause that an unlawful discriminatory act was committed.

The commission said the evidence indicates that Hill was subject to a hostile work environment because of race and sex and she was subjected to different terms and conditions of employment, according to a February letter of determination from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Hill reached out to her superiors for help with the hostile environment, but received little or no help, the letter of determination states.

White, male staff openly expressed dissatisfaction, hostility and resentment toward Hill, and the police department did not investigate the allegations into her complaint, the letter states.

The case work and case files have been passed along to civil rights attorneys at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Civil Rights Section, which is the standard procedure for complaints that are found to have probable cause, according to a commission spokesperson.

Hill’s lawsuit in federal court is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

City of Dayton’s response

A city of Dayton spokeswoman told this news organization that the city does not comment on ongoing litigation and personnel matters.

But in an August 2016 letter to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, senior city of Dayton attorney Leonard Bazelak said the city has no knowledge of longstanding complaints from Hill about discrimination and denies her charges.

Bazelak said the city has established procedures in place for employees to make formal discrimination complaints, but Hill did not allege discrimination until filing a complaint with the civil rights commission in May 2016.

The city denies that police supervisors and managers treated Hill with hostility because of her race, sex or age, Bazelak wrote. However, he said, some of Hill’s subordinates have been frustrated with her job performance because of her “inability to timely, efficiently and reasonably” perform her work as commander.

Hill alleges discrimination but fails to identify specific instances of a hostile work environment, harassing behavior or demeaning and derogatory treatment, Bazelak said.

The functioning of her department has suffered in recent years, and the police major positions she applied for were filled with a white female lieutenant and a black male lieutenant, who were the most qualified candidates for a promotion, the letter states.

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