Black NYPD Sergeant Says Department Demoted Him for Pointing Out Racism

By Sameer Rao Nov 08, 2017

New York Police Department (NYPD) sergeant Cyress Smith spent nearly half of his two-decade career with the department’s Risk Management Bureau, which tasked him with addressing misconduct and evaluating internal practices. Now, he says the NYPD is punishing him for calling out racial disparity.

The New York Daily News reported yesterday (November 7) that Smith, who is Black, recently sued the NYPD in federal court. He is accusing the department of violating his civil rights with punitive job transfers and poor evaluations. Smith told the Daily News that he first reported what he saw as the disproportionate promotion of White officers in 2013. He said his own performance rating dropped soon after he filed the complaint; the Daily News reports that it dropped “to 4.0 out of 5, then to 3.5, a mark that makes career advancement extremely difficult.”

Smith successfully contested a 4.0 mark with the department, but says supervisors delayed his subsequent appeals. One supervisor, Inspector John Cosgrove, apparently told Smith to transfer departments; when he wouldn’t do so, Cosgrove allegedly punished Smith by taking away his officer training responsibilities and making him deliver mail from NYPD headquarters to other buildings.

Smith added that the department denied two disability pension requests for treatment related to his asthma and sleep apnea—both of which Smith said he developed while investigating toxic debris from the September 11 attacks. The department twice transferred Smith to precincts with soot-infested work conditions that he says negatively impacted those conditions. Last month, he was transferred to the Viper Unit, which the Daily News reports typically employs officers under investigation to monitor public housing surveillance cameras.

“They’re trying to force me to retire,” Smith said of the transfer and denied pensions. “But I’m going to retire on my own terms.”

The NYPD reportedly did not respond to the Daily News’ request for comment. The outlet adds that Smith was a plaintiff in a similar 1999 lawsuit, in which a group of Latinx and Black officers accused the department of discriminatory discipline against officers of color. The group settled with the department for $27 million in 2004.