A New York police officer was awarded $1.35 million dollars this week after he successfully sued the village of Freeport, alleging he was passed over for a promotion because of his race.
A Long Island jury sided with Lt. Christopher Barrella after he claimed that then-Mayor Andrew Hardwick overlooked him to become chief of police so that he could name a Hispanic candidate to the position instead.
“I am very gratified that the jury ruled that I deserved to be chief of police. Throughout this entire process, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude and do my best for the department and the village of Freeport and will continue to do so," Barrella said in a statement. “It has been a long and trying process, but I always had faith that if we could present our case to a jury of my peers they would see that I was discriminated against.”
His legal team, comprised of Amanda M. Fugazy and Adam C. Weiss, said that "racial discrimination against white employees is just as unlawful as discrimination black, Hispanic or Asian employees."
“The evidence was quite overwhelming leaving no doubt that Hardwick took race into account when hiring the chief of police and in many other employment decisions he made as mayor,” Weiss said.
Barella's legal team presented evidence showing that Hardwick moved to change rules to allow Miguel Bermudez, at the time an Hispanic lieutenant, to apply for the chief position. Bermudez at the time did not have enough time in grade as a lieutenant to apply for the position.
Fugazy and Weiss argued that their client had a superior resume, noting that he scored first on the chief's civil service exam, while Bermudez placed third, and had spent more years as a lieutenant, held a law degree and a master's degree in public administration, and had undergone special training at the FBI academy. By comparison, Bermudez only held a high school diploma.
A Freeport representative did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze Thursday, but the release issued by Barrella's legal team said they had tried to argue no racial discrimination had occurred because Bermudez is a "white Hispanic."
"This argument was undercut by the fact that Hardwick, according to several witnesses, referred to Bermudez as Freeport’s 'first Hispanic police chief' on numerous occasions and also made other racially based statements," the release said.
In addition to damages and the former mayor's legal fees, the village will have to cover Barella's legal fees.
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