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Ex-NYPD Diver: Racial Harassment Led To Early Retirement

NYPD (file / credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NYPD (file / credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man who was once the only black member of the NYPD’s elite scuba diving unit says he endured years of racial harassment.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, Oscar Smith, who has filed a complaint against the NYPD with the with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the discrimination began even before he was hired. His 2003 application to join the unit was denied, and he claims he later learned why.

“The joke with them was, ‘What black guy can swim? How did this guy pass the test,” Smith told Diamond.

Smith, 48, eventually was hired into the unit and alleges he was then confronted often with racial and sometimes anti-gay slurs — though he’s not homosexual.

“They nicknamed me ‘Tautog,'” he said. “And I was like, ‘What is that?’ And one of the guys said, ‘Oh, that’s a black fish.'”

The comments also included “that I should get a sex-change operation — this came from my supervisors,” said Smith.

Smith said, while in front of his bosses, he told his colleagues that he didn’t find the remarks funny. He also said that his repeated complaints to Internal Affairs were ignored.

Smith said the alleged harassment forced him to retire from the force last year.

The NYPD said it is withholding comment while reviewing Smith’s complaint.

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