Chris Barrella's Credentials Appear To Trump The Hispanic Choice For Chief

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Heated charges have been levied by a veteran cop who says he was discriminated against because of the color of his skin. The lieutenant scored highest on the chief’s exam and claims he was overlooked for the coveted slot, because his black mayor didn’t want a white police chief.

Needless to say, it is an explosive and highly controversial issue inside Freeport Village Hall.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

The police lieutenant, a 21-year veteran of the force, is now suing the mayor on the grounds of reverse discrimination.

“The mayor has systematically demoted and or terminated and or forced to retire male whites and female whites and replaced them with less qualified or totally unqualified minority employees,” Lt. Christopher Barrella told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Friday.

Mayor Andrew Hardwick said he couldn’t respond due to the pending litigation, but his village website is chock full of his active participation in the community — a community that is 60 percent minority.

That is part of the broader reason why, his supporters said, he passed over Lt. Barrella, 44, in favor of Lt. Miguel Bermudez in naming the Hispanic man Freeport’s police chief.

“If you make a job decision based upon race, it is illegal,” attorney Amanda Fugazy said.

Barrella argues that with his bachelors, masters and law degrees, FBI training and more than two decades on the force he should have been named chief. He scored No. 1 on the chief exam, while Bermudez placed third.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall On The Story

Bermudez doesn’t have a college degree, but some residents said numbers aren’t everything.

“Freeport police — they are great officers; the mayor, he’s a good man and trying to do the best for Freeport,” resident William Pope said.

“I believe Hispanic and African Americans should have a chance, not to be left out,” added resident Christian Ramirez.

“I believe everybody deserves the chance, but not the wrong way,” Jamie Hennessy said.

Barrella, however, isn’t backing down from his belief that he was wronged.

“I love being a Freeport lieutenant and I’m sure I would have loved more to be the Freeport chief,” the lieutenant said. “I feel it is what I earned.”

In August 2010, a white deputy female chief was suddenly demoted and also filed a federal lawsuit claiming the mayor has a “racist and bigoted” agenda. Debbie Zagaja said she was the deputy chief in the Freeport Police Department for three years before being demoted to lieutenant in March 2010. The village attorney said race and gender have never been a factor in personnel matters.

The 24-year veteran of the force claimed she was demoted and passed over for promotion because of her sex and race. Zagaja said she was replaced by a less experienced Hispanic male — who was the department’s most junior lieutenant

The Nassau County Civil Service Commission said law requires the village hire one of the top three candidates. The person must be a lieutenant with at least two years experience in that position.

Share your thoughts on this story in the comments section below…

Comments (29)
  1. Finally the truth says:

    Open your eyes all ye people!! These lawsuits aren’t because of any officer’s being wronged . They are simply part of bigger plot to get rid of the Mayor. All promotions since this Mayor took office have been legal through not only Civil Service law, but legal within the village of Freeport policies, created by prior administration.Now, that the shoe is on the other foot it doesn’t feel so good.Don’t worry Mayor Hardwick, no weapon formed against you will ever prosper!!!

  2. Joe says:

    This so called “mayor” has replaced all of the supervisional spots and department heads with minorities, regardless of their qualifications, this is racism pure and simple! I mean a guy who cut the grass at the park for a few years and has a g.e.d. replaced a twenty year employed, college educated white person as head of DPW. Racism is Racism! This is only a drop in the bucket of what this guy has pulled off. He should be investigated !

  3. louise camerlingo says:

    I BELIVE MR. BARRRELLA IS A BRAVE PERSON, GOOD FOR HIM, SPEAK THE TRUTH, THIS MAYOR SHOULD BE FIRED!!!!! LIKE MR. TRUMP SAID OUR COUNTRY IS GOING DOWN THE TOLIET!!!!!!!. we have got tobe able to speak the truth. and set the records straight!!!! this black bull is going to far!!!!!!!!

  4. Voice of Reason says:

    No reasonable person, regardless of race, understands what you speak of. Im not even going to ask you about the spectrum of qualifications you may posess, but what is up with this ” What goes around, comes around ” mentality? Do you really believe this white officer, whose grandparents probably came off the boat from Italy in the last 50-75 years, is responsible for the enslavement and repression if blacks that started more than 400 years ago? One can see that history is not a strong point of your qualification.

  5. DaEmph says:

    Know he knows how it feels

  6. Rick says:

    To “I am a man”. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, by all means fight back. Discrimination works both ways. My comments regarding the white Lt. from Freeport N.Y. shows my support for his case. That does not mean that I wouldn’t support your case just as strong.Discrimination is wrong in all cases.

  7. I am a man says:

    um the pot calling the kettle black Sound just like whats happening to me as I write this comment twenty year retired police officer from new york city now residing in Alabama . with many awards and homeland security training I applied for a job here and did not even get a interview after passing an entrance exam Oh yes I am a black man

    1. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz says:


    2. quid says:

      It probably has something to do with your inept punctuation and spelling. Is that how you submitted your resume?

    3. Bill says:

      You do know Alabama’s history with black men right?
      You do know that they are still fighting the war down there right?
      Yes, I am a white man from NY who visits on business and has always been called the “Yankee”.
      I really couldn’t imagine being black down there from the North.
      Nobody ever mention you being a yankee?
      Don’t worry, Mississippi’s worse. Louisiana’s Better.

      1. Slap bill says:

        You need a smack in the face

  8. Rick says:

    I applaude Lt. Barrella for standing up for his rights. He scored the highest on the test and has all the necessary qualifications.Whites have to work twice as hard to get promotions because whites don’t qualify for affirmative action or additional point scores just for taking the test.Where are the hypocrites like Sharpton or the ACLU. Why aren’t they screaming that an injustice has been committed?

  9. John says:

    Since I don’t come from the suburbs I don’t have the great educational opportunities that the whites have. Now that the table has turned how does it feel?

    1. Kevin says:

      @ John. It feels like another costly lawsuit is about to take place. That’s how it feels. All of this “tables turned” garbage is non sense. This mayor is, to use his wors “stuck on stupid” if he didn’t see a lawsuit, or a dozen, come about. His arrogance and ego caused this problem

    2. BF says:

      John, wrong is wrong. Why would anyone stand up for one case of injustice and turned a blind eye towards another?

    3. FreeportResident says:

      I live in Freeport. We have a high crime rate here.
      The most qualified has been on THESE streets for a long time.
      He KNOWS these streets. The People.
      Yes, it would be awesome if he were black like us, but he’s not.
      We would feel like he’s more in tune with our needs.
      Yet how we “feel” is not what we need.
      We need experience, knowledge and over 20 years of experience running our police department.
      YES, more minorities on the force are needed also, especially
      spanish speaking officers.
      Recism exists on both sides here. Typical North / South of the tracks bs.
      Definitely don’t need someone underqualified.

      1. Kevin says:

        @ freeport resident. Well said. I too live in Freeport and want the best qualified, regardless of race, gender, or creed.

      2. AnotherFreeportResident says:

        FeeportResident: Your comment exemplifies good citizenship at its best.

  10. Thomas says:

    so he wasn’t hired because 60% of the population is minority… now how can they be a minority if the percentage is over 50???? And further more, when the community is mostly white, they are forced to hire a minority….. it sure don’t pay to Caucasian….

  11. tandi says:

    Before this gets cleared up they should first start working on the thousands upon thousands of cities where qualified black people regularly get passed over and ignored by white majorities.

    1. No more political correctness says:


      Maybe its not the color of skin, instead lots of black people have a hard time speaking ENGLISH. ….Ebonics in never a good language skill to have when seeking a promotion.

  12. michael says:

    Good for you…. go for it enough is enough with the I have a dream BS!

    1. simon says:

      Judge me not by the color of my skin but the content of my character; unless the color of my skin helps me get ahead……

  13. Very conservative says:

    Guess it’s about the whole slavery thing. Wonder if blacks will be over it in, say, 2000 years? Too bad none of us will find out.

    Oh, and just “love” that such cases are sugar-coated as “reverse” discrimination.

    1. tandi says:

      wondering when guys like you will ever be over your haughty superiority complex. it drips and oozes from you, and that’s the real reason why people don’t like your a#&es

      1. Blasterific says:

        tandi you are an idiot. I usually do not insult people here, but you brought that on yourself.

  14. lieutenantdan says:

    Race and/or sex.
    The family court system is said to be bias against Fathers.

  15. malcolm X says:

    why is it called reverse discrimination? Isnt discrimination when someone is bias against someone of another race. It was Dr King that said he has a dream where all men and women are created equal? So why is this allowed and why do we give points to minorites on exams if it is to be equal? Doesnt sound very equal to me. I am all for equality across the board but lets really make it equal.

    1. short one says:

      All men are not created equal, evidently you never stood in a physical exam line at the armed forces induction station!

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