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Hempstead mayor, NAACP to meet after officer complaint

Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, shown Feb. 27,

Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, shown Feb. 27, 2017, is to meet with Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP's New York State Conference. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

The Hempstead Village mayor and the president of the NAACP New York State Conference are to meet to discuss the promotion practices of the village police department after a black detective accused the village of failing to promote him and another black officer because of their race, officials said.

The NAACP and the 100 Coalition, a group of local clergy, have alleged racism and discrimination in the village government and police department brass, saying officials want the “clock to run out” on a promotion list for sergeants that currently has two black officers at the top. That list is set to expire in November, and the next list has five white officers in the top slots.

Mayor Don Ryan, in a previous statement, said, “Any accusations of discrimination in our police department are unfounded.”

Detective Steven Wilson Jr. has said he and a fellow officer, Raquel Spry-Dacres, both of whom are black, are the top names on the current list based on their scores from an exam they took in 2013.

Wilson spoke to about 30 people last week at Jackson Memorial AME Zion Church in Hempstead and decried what he said was racism and discrimination within the ranks. He did not immediately respond to a message left for him Wednesday.

Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP’s New York State Conference, spoke at last week’s meeting and sent a letter dated Aug. 11 to Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan requesting a meeting with him.

“The complaints raise very serious questions about the operation of the Department by Chief [Michael] McGowan and about whether equal, racially non discriminatory opportunities for promotions are being provided to qualified African American members of the Department’s force,” Dukes wrote.

A village spokesman confirmed the receipt of Dukes’ letter and said a date for the meeting has not been set.

Village officials said about 60 of the nearly 130 officers on the force are minorities. Nine of the 20 supervisors below the rank of chief are minorities, and eight of them were promoted during McGowan’s tenure as chief, McGowan has said. According to 2010 Census figures, 48.3 percent of the village’s population is black and 44.2 percent is Hispanic or Latino.

In 2012, the village settled a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former deputy chief for more than $545,000. The year before, a federal grand jury awarded $350,000 to a former lieutenant who said she was denied promotions and demoted for filing gender and racial discrimination complaints against the department.

In 2007, a noose was found hanging in the department’s men’s locker room, an incident that was investigated by the Nassau County Police Department and district attorney’s office, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, and condemned by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. In 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s office had said that case was inactive pending new information. The office did not immediately have updated information Wednesday about the case.

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