In 2009, 20 New Haven firefighters, known as the “New Haven 20,” won a reverse discrimination case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In November 2011, 10 African-American New Haven police officers filed a suit against the city, claiming they were denied promotions because of their race. Their attorney is calling them the “New Haven 10.”
Williams said his clients took exams in 2009 for eligibility to be promoted to the rank of sergeant and passed. The lawsuit claims that members of the board said they were troubled by the fact that a majority of the people on the list were African-American, but none were Latino.
"They were deliberately denying these men promotions because of their race," attorney John R. Williams said "It was discussed openly, on the record, at the civil service commission. Pretty amazing that we could have public servants who are that ignorant of the law, but that's what happened."
One year after the officers took the exam, the list of those eligible for promotions was allowed to expire.
According to the suit, the list is normally active for two years.
The officers are suing to get promotions, back pay, benefits and compensation for emotional distress.
"The city denies the allegations made in this lawsuit, but will respond more fully at the appropriate time," New Haven's corporation counsel said in response to the suit.
Williams said that what's so stunning to him is that this was happening less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter who sued when the city tossed out results of a 2003 promotions exam because African-American candidates did not scored well.
The city ultimately settled for $2 million.