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UW police accused of discrimination

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Five current and one former employee of the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) filed suit against the University of Washington last Thursday in federal court. The plaintiffs in the case are demanding a jury trial for damages caused by racial, sexual orientation, age and religious discrimination as well as having to work in a hostile work environment.

According to the complaint, many of the alleged incidents occurred up to five years ago in March of 2003 and continued persistently through 2007. Among the allegations are uses of racial slurs and signs of favoritism among employees of different race and sex.

Norm Arkans, UW associate vice president of media relations and communications, declined to comment on any specific allegations, but did wish to clarify the process up to this point.

"The allegations are only one version of events," Arkans said. "We still have yet to determine if any of them are true."

One employee, who is Jewish, was allegedly told that he could not be Jewish because he did not have a number tattooed on his wrist and also claims to have found several images of the Nazi swastika around the office.

Another employee, a black female, became aware of a black voodoo doll found in her department with stick pins and a noose around the neck in February 2005.

The employee, a records clerk, also alleges that she has been paid less and given less stature to do the same job that was previously performed by a white woman.

Five of the six plaintiffs are still working for UWPD.

One is a records clerk, three are officers and another is a dispatcher.

The sixth plaintiff is a former officer. All six have been advised not to comment on the case.

UWPD officials declined to comment regarding the atmosphere of the work environment and whether having five working employees filing suit against the University would affect the ability of the police department to function.

When asked the same question about the police department's ability to function with apparent personnel issues in its ranks, Arkans responded, "We expect people to do their jobs and I think the police officers and other staff feel the same way in regards to the issue."

The six plaintiffs have been asked not to speak, said their attorney, Noah Davis.

"I have told them not to speak with anyone about the case without me present at this time," Davis said.

The University has not said at this time if it plans to make a formal response.

"We're always concerned about allegations," Arkans said. "The question is whether or not they're true, and that's still to be determined."

Reach reporter Casey Smith at news@dailyuw.com.

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