CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A Long Island police lieutenant has been awarded $1.35 million in his racial discrimination lawsuit against the village of Freeport.
Lt. Christopher Barrella, who is white, had accused the village of awarding the police chief’s job to a Hispanic officer with few qualifications and a lower test score.
Following the federal jury’s decision Wednesday, Barrella described the process as trying but said he always had faith in the jury system.
“It’s really a good feeling to be validated, and I am incredibly appreciative that the jury saw it my way,” Barrella told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
The former mayor, Andrew Hardwick, was a defendant in the case but could not be reached for comment. He was the village’s first black mayor.
Barrella had charged that Hardwick terminated and demoted qualified, experienced non-Hispanic whites. Barrella charged that Hardwick illegaly chose Miguel Bermudez for the job of police chief.
The current Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, who is white, said the jury got it wrong.
“I have the utmost confidence in Chief Bermudez, who’s probably one of the finest chiefs of Freeport village that we’ve ever had,” Kennedy told Rivera.
The jury award includes $200,000 in punitive damages.
“I think that this is a wake up call for all employers, everybody is protected under the U.S.’s anti-discrimination law,” Barrella’s attorney Amanda Fugazy told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
The spokesperson for the village said there is no supporting evidence that the village discriminated against Barrella and they plan to appeal, Hall reported.
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