A Freeport police officer has sued the village in federal court, accusing its police department of widespread racial and gender bias over the past 15 years.
The officer, Cynthia Cummings, alleges that the department repeatedly discriminated against her because she is a black woman. She charged that she was cited for infractions while her white, male colleagues would go unpunished.
Cummings, who joined the approximately 90-officer department in 1997 after serving with the New York Police Department, filed the lawsuit at U.S. District Court in Central Islip this month. She seeks more than $50 million in damages. A court date has not been set.
"If you're going to have rules, apply them the same way to everyone," said Cummings' attorney, Eric Sanders of Manhattan.
Peter Bee, a Mineola attorney hired by Freeport to represent the village in the case, said he will file court papers in response to the lawsuit soon. He declined to comment on the merits of the suit. "We are reviewing the litigation papers and will be responding in the near future," Bee said.
The lawsuit alleges that the department's internal operations are "fraught with race and gender bias," and that superiors "handle allegations of serious misconduct much differently" when disciplining white, male officers.
The lawsuit details a series of disciplinary actions against Cummings, including a 2010 incident in which Freeport Police Chief Miguel Bermudez proposed taking away 120 vacation days from Cummings after she allegedly campaigned on behalf of Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who is black, while she was on the job. Cummings is fighting the charge.
Cummings alleges that white police officers "have always solicited funds and campaigned on duty" but never faced discipline "because the previous mayors were Caucasian."
Hardwick and Bermudez did not return telephone calls yesterday.
Cummings' lawsuit says the discrimination began when she was hired. The suit alleges that the village, and several officials, are complicit in the discrimination because they "failed and refused to take appropriate action to end the discriminatory treatment."