The Houston Police Department has discriminated against officers within its ranks. And when the favoritism within the department was pointed out, those officers were retaliated against for blowing the whistle.
That’s the message sent by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week when they stood with a lower court in favor of Houston police officer Chris Zamora. Zamora faced retaliation amidst claims that the police department was mistreating Hispanic officers.
The decision will cost the city $150,000 in damages. The department already invested millions of dollars in fighting the case since the first filing of internal discrimination in 2007.
Domingo Garcia is one of the officers involved in that initial case that lead to the current ruling. He’s also the president of the Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers.
“This had been brewing for a while,” he says. “There were many of us (who) had applied for assignments. When you come in to be a police officer you start out as a patrol officer and then you start looking for a promotion within your ranks.”
But the Houston Police Department was discriminating among who would get promoted, and who would not, Garcia says.
“What was happening from our point of view was there was too much favoritism going on,” Garcia says.
Back in 2007, Manuel Zamora was part of a group of officers that filed a discrimination lawsuit again the Houston Police Department. Zamora’s son, Chris Zamora, was also a police officer in the department. Chris was asked to leave the unit, Garcia says. Chris was taken into his supervisor’s office and recorded a conversation suggesting if he didn’t leave his unit, other officers would ruin his career.
“When it went down to writing down what had actually happened, (the other officers) found out that he had a recording of what they did,” Garcia says. “They pretty much got caught not being truthful.”
The whole situation has left its mark on the Houston Police Department, Garcia says.
“This is like a dark cloud over our department right now,” he says. “We, throughout the years, have been filing grievances and making our voices known through our website, through articles. It’s almost like the (Houston Police Department) ignores us.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.