FREEPORT, N.Y. (WCBS 880/1010 WINS/CBS 2) – A Freeport police lieutenant has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was demoted because she’s a white female.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
LISTEN: L.I. Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports from Freeport

Debbie Zagaja, 47, was the deputy chief in the Freeport Police Department for three years. She was demoted in March to a lieutenant.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Zagaja alleges that she was demoted and passed over for promotion because of her sex and race and was replaced by a less experienced Hispanic male — who was the department’s most junior lieutenant, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reports.

Zagaja, a 24-year veteran of the force, names Village Mayor Andrew Hardwick in her suit, as having a racist and bigoted agenda. She claims that her case is part of a pattern of discrimination against whites.

“He is making decisions based on a black-white thing,” Zagaja said.

McLogan talked to some Freeport residents Thursday about the merits of a mayor possibly factoring in color and race to reflect an ethnically changing community.

“I would like to see more black and Hispanic officers,” one woman told McLogan.

Another woman had a different perspective saying “they shouldn’t be put there just because of color…that’s not right.”

“If it is more integrated, it would be better for the whole community,” another man said.

Mayor Hardwick would not speak to CBS 2, but the village attorney released a statement saying: “It is not the Village’s position to discuss performance or policy matters involving staff.  Race and gender have not and never will be a factor in personnel matters.”

Comments (10)
  1. Fidel Balan says:

    I have known Debbie Zagaja for 24 years and of all the bosses that have made it to the position of chief, she is the only one that has worked in patrol, detectives unit, took a civil service exam to become Sergeant and Lieutenant. Her record is unblemished and speaks for itself. I can tell you as a former insider that the fix was in since before Hardwick became mayor. Bermudez the current Deputy Chief who Hardwick appointed in Zagaja’s place is a member of the Freeport volunteer fire department as is Hardwick. Bermudez campaigned for Hardwick and was promised the job. I have known Hardwick for years and even supported his campaign for mayor. From the moment he got into office he started a practice based on “race” and I even wrote him a letter telling him that this was not the Andrew Hardwick that I knew. Bermudez is and was nothing more than a “HATCH MAN” for outgoing police chief Mike “the coward” Woodward. If you talk to any cop on the Freeport police they will tell you that Bermudez was a lazy do-nothing cop when he patrolled the streets of Freeport. Yes he is good at taking a civil service exam, but otherwise he is useless. There is not a cop in Freeport who doesn’t know that Zagaja is better educated and more experienced than Hardwick’s crony.

  2. dude says:

    reverse cronyism! woo-hoo!

  3. Will says:

    It is about time white people are standing up to say no more to these racist who hide behind political correctness. I hope she ends up owning that department

  4. joe says:

    chris black!! one word DUH!!!!!!!!!

  5. true redefine says:

    Well, one thing for sure, she ain’t white as there are no white people, but she is light complexioned, maybe she is suffering from Descriptism(Skin Shade Discrimination), but I doubt it.

  6. Kathy says:

    Mayor Hardwick should have known that without an “incident” with which to demote the Lt., he would be trespassing on constitutional rights Shady practices or not, he is in trouble with this one.

  7. greg moses says:

    as a freeport police lieutenant for 35 years i worked with and for lt. zagaya and she is very qualfied and experienced police officer.

  8. chris a. black says:

    mayor andrew hardwick a racist? the mayor grew up in the town and has had white friends like the rest of us growing up there,,,,excuse me ms. zagaja but you will have whites in freeport that grew up with him that will shut this talk down,,,,lady if you got demoted it was because of your attitude,,,,so the mayor highers an hispanic for your job,,,what next ? did the mayor check the guys birth certificate,,,,give me a break,,,freeport red devils #1,,,,

    1. madmaxxed says:

      Such Hostility!

    2. Saya says:

      Why don’t you read the article in Newsday in today’s paper. Hardwick has a track record of replacing qualified people w/ “his people” (as stated in the article, you can interpret that how you want) who are far less qualified for the jobs. The article states, “To replace Zagaja, the only employee on the force with senior-level management experience, Hardwick hand-picked a Hispanic male who was the department’s most junior lieutenant, the suit said” This is has been going on since he was put into office back in 2009. Here’s another excerpt from the article. “The complaint cites the replacement of a white female tax assessor with a black male, and the re-hiring of the woman as a consultant to do work he couldn’t perform”

      I couldn’t tell you if the man is a racist or not (and just because he has white friends doesn’t mean he’s not a racist), but what I can see is that he wants as many of his people (colleagues, friends, associates, etc…) running this town whether they deserve the position or not.

      I understand that this will happen to any company, town or whatever. People want to bring in their workers. I get that. But clearly, qualifications do not matter to Hardwick. He’ll throw in whoever in whatever position. When he has meetings, he lets all of his followers in through the back door so that the room fills up before any residents can get in there. He’s just a shady individual and it’s going to hit the fan. He’s no good for my Freeport.

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