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Hempstead police's black deputy chief files bias suit

Willie Dixon, Hempstead Village police department's second-in-command, filed a discrimination suit Wednesday claiming he's unfairly persecuted by the department and others because he's black and outspoken against racism in the force.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Central Islip, said Dixon has been marginalized and subjected to baseless investigations for standing up against "racially hostile behavior" against himself and other officers throughout his 29-year career.

A village police spokesman said Wednesday the allegations in the lawsuit were baseless.

The federal suit names as defendants the village, Nassau County, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Mayor Wayne Hall Sr., Hempstead police Chief Joseph Wing, and local police union officials.

The complaint includes a wide range of incidents dating back to 2003 involving alleged discrimination against Dixon, the department's most senior black officer.

In particular, Dixon said, the department stripped him of nearly all his duties last year after he refused to call on federal investigators to suspend a probe into the discovery of a noose in a station house locker room in September 2007.

Dixon, who had become deputy chief months earlier, has said he believes the noose was intended to harass him. The suit claims that, when Dixon went public with the noose incident, Wing tried to pressure him into resigning from his post.

"I am totally left out of the loop of the day-to-day operation of the department," Dixon said Wednesday. "This [stripping of duties] is a blatant and obvious attempt to keep me under their thumb.Anytime a person raises an issue of racism in the department, it's almost like the big guns come out and say, 'let's just squash this.' No one wants to address the issue."

The federal noose investigation was inactive as of this spring, a Justice Department spokesman has said. Justice department officials couldn't be reached Wednesday.

Village officials said Dixon's desk duty in April of 2009 was unrelated to the noose probe and done after Nassau prosecutors launched a criminal probe into other allegations against him. No criminal charges were filed, a spokeswoman said, and the case is closed.Carole Trottere, a district attorney spokeswoman, said: "The office received several allegations pertaining to the subject in question. It was the office's obligation to conduct a thorough investigation of the complaints and that's what we did. The investigation did not result in criminal charges and has since been closed."Dixon was promoted to deputy chief after Wing became department chief in April 2007 and became assistant chief when that post became vacant. He's worked for the village police since 1981 and has a salary close to $167,000 a year, according to village records.

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