A New Canaan police officer is suing the town, saying it discriminated against him due to his color and ancestry after he put in three years ago for a position in a specialized unit of the department.
Five officers—three white males, one who identified as Jewish and the plaintiff, who is Hispanic and brown—responded when the police department started a selection process for its Special Response Team or “SRT” in 2018, according to a complaint received July 21 by the Town Clerk’s office.
“When a position on the SRT needs to be filled, candidates are eligible for appointment if they meet certain criteria which includes review of applicants personnel file; conducting an oral interview; conducting a physical agility test; weapon skill test,” according to the complaint, filed on behalf of Officer David Rivera by attorney John T. Bochanis of Bridgeport-based Daly, Weihing & Bochanis.
The plaintiff completed portions of the exam between October 2018 and February 2019, the complaint said. During the oral interview portion, he was “improperly assessed” when presented with a question “regarding his performance on the obstacle portion of the SRT test which test the Plaintiff passed.”
“The question directed to Plaintiff was intended to specifically embarrass him before the review board and attempt to establish that although the Plaintiff passed the agility test he allegedly did not try hard enough,” the complaint said. “No non-basis candidates were posed similar questions.”
Further, the three white male candidates at first failed the firearms portion of the test, and later “were offered remedial training, allowed to retake the exam, and were subsequently selected for Defendant’s SRT team,” the complaint said.
“No other non-basis candidates were subjected to similar harassment and discrimination in the manner that Plaintiff was due to his color (Brown) and ancestry (Puerto Rican),” the complaint said, in violation of Connecticut law.
Bochanis said in the complaint that the SRT is all-white.
As a result of the department’s decision, the plaintiff “will lose salary, benefits and other prerequisites of employment and has suffered and will continue to suffer from extreme humiliation, mental anxiety and emotional distress and has been and/or will be required to assume various incidental expenses and his life’s activities have ben impaired,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, attorney’s fees and “such other and further relief as in law and equity may pertain.”
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