Workplace lawsuits tend to be messy and time-consuming. However, they can become even more bitter when race and religion are part of the mix. That's exactly what's happening at the Washington State Patrol right now.
WSP sergeant David Divis has filed suit against the department, claiming he was the victim of discriminatory practices. Divis, who is white and a Mormon, claims he was treated differently because of those traits during disciplinary proceedings.
Divis was accused of making racially insensitive remarks in 2006 or 2007. On one occasion, he allegedly commented that the laziest troopers in his unit were African-American. He also reportedly compared the physical appearance of a former baseball player to Aunt Jemima. An internal affairs investigation revealed the allegations, and a Trial Board later found that Divis had indeed made those remarks but had intended no malice. It was also noted that Divis was successful in turning around a low-performing detachment. The board recommended a 20-day suspension for Divis.
But State Patrol Chief John Batiste, who is black, ignored the board's suggestion and demoted Divis. After appealing to Thurston County Superior Court, the demotion was overturned and sent back to Batiste for discipline reconsideration. Batiste's decision is still pending, and Divis has been on paid administrative leave since that time.
Divis also alleges in his lawsuit that superior officers made his life more difficult after the allegations by making it difficult to get promoted and transferring him to posts far away from his home. He also says he was treated differently than African-Americans in the WSP. The sad thing about these types of cases is that regardless of Divis's reinstatement as a working WSP sergeant, there will likely be bad feelings on both sides for quite some time. And internal turmoil within a law enforcement agency tends to lower its overall performance when it comes to serving and protecting the public.