NYPD Officer Jhisaiah Myers on Thursday said his dream of being a Nassau County cop was denied. He's the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that claims there's racial discrimination in the hiring of police officers in Nassau County. NewsdayTV's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez; File Footage; Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman; The Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington

An NYPD officer from Freeport filed a federal class action lawsuit Thursday alleging the Nassau Police Department rejected him for a job because he's Black, emblematic of the county’s ongoing discriminatory hiring practices and overwhelmingly white police force, the suit says.

Jhisaiah Myers, 36, filed the lawsuit, his attorneys say in the legal action, on behalf of nonwhite applicants to the police department who passed the written exam but were disqualified during the "subjective" process that followed. The suit seeks damages, including back pay, and relief in the form of hiring practice changes to make it more equitable.

The suit names Nassau County, the police department and the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, which oversees the hiring of all Civil Service employees, including police officers.

“As a Long Islander, becoming a police officer in Nassau County was a dream that was denied to me," Myers said during a news conference alongside his lawyers in Hempstead. 

What to know

  • A federal class action lawsuit alleges the Nassau County Police Department rejected an applicant because he's Black.
  • The suit says the rejection is in keeping with the county’s history of discriminatory hiring practices.
  • The county says it’s “committed to employing people from all backgrounds and communities” and that the last two police academy classes were highly diverse.

"I stand in this case to seek justice for myself and so many other Black candidates who have been wrongfully denied the chance to pursue their dreams, just like me," said Myers, who works out of the NYPD's 25th Precinct in the northern section of East Harlem.

Myers was rejected by the Nassau Police, according to the suit, because of multiple traffic tickets.

In response to the suit, Nassau spokesman Chris Boyle said the county "is committed to employing people from all backgrounds and communities and the last two police academy classes were some of the most diverse in the department's history."

Boyle said Nassau County "cannot discuss the specifics of the litigation." 

The Nassau Police Department also wouldn't comment, said Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a department spokesman. 

The lawsuit cites a 2021 Newsday report that revealed Nassau County hired only 36 Black officers out of 2,508 Black applicants during a hiring cycle ending in 2019. By March 2021, 103 of the police department’s roughly 2,400 police officers were Black.

The department pointed to what it says are increasingly diverse police recruit classes but the suit cites 2020 Nassau Police statistics showing the officer ranks to be 87% white. As of last year, only 108 of Nassau's approximately 2,500 police officers were Black — fewer than the department employed in 1991, according to the suit.

Frederick K. Brewington, one of several lawyers who filed the lawsuit, cited comments from Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, previously published by Newsday, in which he said the department’s efforts at increasing diversity were hindered because many Blacks and Hispanics come from "broken homes." Ryder refused calls he step down as a result of those comments.

The suit also cited an October 2021 deposition from ex-Nassau Police Officer Charles Volpe. While under oath, Volpe said that when Ryder was a sergeant in 2015, he called Nassau Police Officer Dolores Sharpe, who is Black, a racial epithet. Volpe had been one of two officers who arrested Sharpe in November 2013 outside a West Hempstead shopping center and charged her with harassment and resisting arrest. In his deposition, Volpe said that Ryder blamed him for "blowing" Sharpe's criminal prosecution.

Sharpe was acquitted in 2015.

Ryder, in a statement Thursday, denied the accusations made by Volpe, who is suing the police commissioner for alleged unfair treatment after the officer was injured on-duty. 

“This disgraced employee abruptly left the department with gross violations of department policy and has retaliated by making up this terrible lie," Ryder said. "As this is still in litigation, I cannot elaborate other than to say that I am confident the truth will come out.”

While the written test to become a Nassau police officer has been reformed and can now be considered an "objective measure," said co-counsel Randolph McLaughlin, the remaining process, including physical and psychological tests as well as a background investigation, is "subjective" and "arbirtrary."

"The rest of the process is controlled exclusively by the Nassau County Police Department," McLaughlin said. "In the physical agility test, they set the standard, they judge the test takers. In the background check, they decide solely, what’s going to disqualify you." 

Following the background investigation for the department's 2012 test, 51.2% of Black applicants and 19.5 % of white applicants were disqualified, according to statistics cited in the suit. Hiring from the 2018 written test is still ongoing, but only 31 Black applicants had completed all steps in the process, according to the suit. 

Even though the department rejected Myers over traffic tickets, it hired some white applicants from the NYPD who had misconduct allegations, according to the lawsuit.

Myers applied to the Nassau police force in 2018, taking the written Civil Service exam, according to the lawsuit. He received a “sufficiently high score” to be placed on the eligibility list. The following year, he passed the physical agility test, placing third out of 25 fellow applicants in a timed 1½-mile run, the suit says.

Myers disclosed to a police department applicant investigator that he had received traffic tickets for non-moving violations about eight or nine years earlier. He had no other police interaction, other than "minor car accidents for which he was not at fault."

In August 2020, the Civil Service told Myers that he had been disqualified from being a Nassau police officer for “disrespect for the process of law and order as evidenced by [his] motor vehicle record,” according to the lawsuit.

Myers appealed the decision twice, but was denied.

Four months after being disqualified, Myers entered the NYPD Police Academy.

"He was disqualified because of tickets that he received years ago and paid for as a regular citizen would," said McLaughlin. "Those tickets were the sole reason that they disqualified him here in Nassau County, yet New York’s City’s police department considered him qualified, eligible and put him in the street to work.”

With John Asbury, Paul LaRocco and Danielle Silverman

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