NY Police Agency Locked in Racial Turmoil

February 15, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Five white sheriff's deputies claim that charges from their black colleagues that the five are members of a racist skinhead group actually created a hostile work environment for the white employees.

The white deputies, who work in the transport division of the Onondaga County (New York) jail, had shaved their heads in a move they made to show their solidarity with a colleague with cancer, according to an Associated Press report.

The white employees complained to their department bosses and to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but the EEOC said their complaints were unfounded, based on the results of a sheriff’s office investigation.

However, according to the news report, the sheriff’s internal affairs division later took a second look at the original investigation by the police agency and found that the initial probe was incomplete because the deputies’ supervisor never interviewed any of the white deputies, according to the president of the union representing jail deputies.

That supervisor, Captain John Woloszyn, who is white, was suspended without pay last week for 30 days for “failing to uphold his official responsibilities,” sheriff’s office spokesman John D’Eredita told The Post-Standard of Syracuse. Internal investigators discovered Woloszyn had never interviewed the deputies, even though he told the county law department that he had, according to the news report.

The EEOC said last week it was looking into the sheriff’s office for investigating the white deputies over their complaint to the federal agency.

According to the report, the dispute arises as an eight-year-old federal lawsuit appears ready to be settled or go to trial by this summer. Ten black deputies sued Onondaga County in 1998 for $2.3 million, claiming jail administrators did not address racism at the jail.

In 2001, the EEOC determined that the sheriff’s office had violated the black deputies’ civil rights at the jail for years.