Denver Police Hispanic Officers Claim Discrimination

March 7, 2006 ( - The Denver Police Latino Organization claims that the Denver Police Department discriminates against Hispanics in recruitment, hiring, assignments, promotions and discipline and subjects those who complain about it to retaliation.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that the organization’s members also allege the department “does not have an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) policy and has not posted legally required information about how employees can pursue discrimination complaints.

After three years of meeting with the city for negotiations, the organization’s local chapter president, Rufino Trujillo, said all they are getting is “idle talk,” according to the news report. The group has filed a class-action employment discrimination complaint with the Department of Justice and EEOC in Denver.

Allegations in the complaint, according to the news report, include:

  • The department makeup does not reflect that of the city. Census figures for 2004, the most recent available, showed that about 32% of the population of Denver was Hispanic. That number is believed to be a low estimate because undocumented Mexican nationals were not counted. Hispanic officers make up 20.31% of the Denver Police Department.
  • Hispanics have been slow to earn promotions. When they have been selected for higher ranking positions, they are often put in non-visible desk jobs instead of being out on the streets. The group says the highest rank Hispanic women have attained is sergeant, and there is only one.
  • Minority officers who file hostile work environment complaints within the department face retaliation or find their complaints ignored.

The complaint also includes allegations by eight former and current officers, and the organization has sent a letter to colleagues, asking others to come forward by March 15. In addition, the group’s documentation includes workforce statistics and an offensive poster hung in a common area in the police department with the headline, “Invaders trying to subvert white American culture.”

The Hispanic officers say they are willing to continue to negotiate with city officials. However, Trujillo recently alleged that the conflicts have gotten so bad that one of his colleagues left a phony bomb in his desk drawer trying to scare him off from pursuing the equality issues.

The organization’s vice president, Leonard Mares said in the news report, “We’re expecting retaliation, and we’ll file complaints on those issues. The way I look at it is this: You don’t need to like me. I just want you to treat me fairly.”

The department faced a similar incident in 1972, when three black female officers alleged they were underrepresented in the police department. That lawsuit resulted in a consent decree that requires the Denver Civil Service Commission to hire a certain percentage of minorities. The Hogue decree requires that new academy classes be comprised of 14.25% Hispanics.