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Hempstead Village promotes officer amid discrimination claims

The Hempstead Village board of trustees discusses the potential promotions of police officers Raquel Spry-Dacres and Steven Wilson Jr. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. (Credit: Stefanie Dazio/Newsday)

The Hempstead Village board of trustees promoted a black police officer to detective on Tuesday night, despite calls from local clergy that she and another black officer have been discriminated against and deserve the higher rank of sergeant.

Raquel Spry-Dacres, an officer in the village for 12 years, received the promotion in a 4-0 vote Tuesday night. She and Steven Wilson Jr., who is already a detective, had taken a Civil Service test for a promotion to sergeant in 2013. Their scores were supposed to expire in 2016 but the promotional list was extended until November.

In the meantime, a new promotional list has come out and the top five scorers were white male officers.

The NAACP New York State Conference and the 100 Coalition, a group of local clergy, have accused the village of trying to get the “clock to run out” so the white officers will be promoted over Spry-Dacres and Wilson. The NAACP has met with village officials regarding the issue.

The village denies the claim and Mayor Don Ryan said Tuesday there are no openings for a sergeant and he did not know when there would be. A village spokesman said Spry-Dacres’ promotion to detective was not influenced by the recent controversy. She, along with another officer, Philip Espina, were promoted Tuesday after they had completed 18 months in an investigative unit, a requirement for detectives.

Police Chief Michael McGowan, who was not at the meeting, has said the department has 20 supervisors below the chief, nine of whom are minorities.

The salary increase for detective is less than for sergeant and a test is not needed for that rank. Spry-Dacres did not attend Tuesday’s meeting and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Wilson, who attended the meeting but did not speak, said in a statement it was “disappointing” that Ryan and McGowan continue to say there are no open spots even as new units have been added in recent months.

“I will continue to fight for what I know is right and against injustices targeted at me and others,” Wilson wrote.

“It’s really easy to say there are no positions available,” Tra Smith, Wilson’s wife, said during the meeting.

She and Wilson’s supporters accused Christopher Giardino, Police Benevolent Association president, of favoring the white officers.

Giardino, who was not at the meeting, said in a statement that the PBA has stayed “neutral” in the discussions.

“The PBA has never taken, and does not now take, a position in support of or in opposition to specific individuals who are to be promoted,” he wrote. “As an organization, our goal is [to] serve the common interests of all of our members.”

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