Eight minority police officers from Greenwich are in federal court this week, claiming the town has discriminated against them for years.
Lawyers for the officers say the town barred their clients from promotions within the department, and that Greenwich allowed pervasive racism to exist.
The lawsuit, filed by the officers, seeks to prove there was an overall hostile environment for years at the department, but the claims focus on actions between October 2002 and May 2006 when former Chief James Walters was in charge. The officers are suing for economic and emotional distress, the Greenwich Time reported.
"The issue is whether you are going to hold the town of Greenwich responsible for the hostile work environment and the longstanding custom and practice that existed within the police department in which racism was ignored or tolerated," the plaintiffs' attorney Robert Richardson told The Time.
Lawyers for the town argue that Greenwich has a clear policy on equality and a formal complaint system to handle violations. They say the officers didn't use the system to air their grievances properly.
In testimony Monday, plaintiff Detective Robert Brown choked up while telling his story to the jury.
"It was common knowledge that when you report it to the higher ups with stuff like this, nothing is going to happen," Brown told the newspaper, describing incidents in which white officers used insensitive terms and racially profiled black suspects. "I felt kind of trapped."
Brown became upset as he described how hard he worked to obtain a promotion while his father was still alive in 2005, but was ultimately denied until being promoted in 2007 to detective, the paper reported.
"I really wanted him to be there," said Brown, whose father died shortly before his promotion. "I was working hard and not getting anything. If you are a black cop, you are not going anywhere."
The trial is expected to last for two more weeks.