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Maryland State Police troopers allege racial discrimination in a new lawsuit

Maryland State Police at Keith Heacook Fest Thursday, April 28, 2022, at The Amphitheater at Heron Ponds in Delmar, Maryland.Keith Heacook Fest
Maryland State Police at Keith Heacook Fest Thursday, April 28, 2022, at The Amphitheater at Heron Ponds in Delmar, Maryland.Keith Heacook Fest

Three Maryland State Police (MSP) troopers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state's law enforcement agency, alleging racial discrimination against its officers of color.

In a 40-page lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the lawsuit alleges the state's law enforcement agency has a history of engaging in systemic discrimination against its officers of color.

The three plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit — Matin Dunlap, Byron Tribue and Analisse Diaz — are seeking compensation for loss of income and emotional distress. Tribue and Dunlap are current MSP troopers; Diaz was fired by the agency in 2019.

"We look forward to litigating this case and making sure Officers of Color at the MSP are treated fairly and holding the MSP responsible for their actions," attorney Michal Shinnar said in a statement to NPR.

Shinnar, along with attorney Jay Holland, are representing the three officers in the case.

"The officers in the Complaint, the other officers with claims at EEOC, and officers of color around the State of Maryland put their lives on the line, and in exchange simply want to be treated equally," she added.

In the lawsuit, the troopers allege that the law enforcement agency has engaged in several instances of racial discrimination against its officers of color.

In one incident, the troopers allege, a paper training dummy at a MSP shooting range was painted in blackface and an "Afro wig."

In another incident, Dunlap alleged a white officer placed a banana on his patrol car, which Dunlap argued was intended to be a racist reference towards him, as a Black man.

The incident was reported to the agency's Office of Fair Practice, the internal office which handles complaints of discrimination. The office determined that the banana placed on Dunlap's car could not be "tied to racism or discrimination," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit went on to point out that employees of color across MSP were transferred to "less favorable and/or more dangerous assignments and shifts" and were often denied overtime opportunities and the accompanying pay. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleged, officers of color faced retaliation when they spoke up about discrimination.

In a statement to NPR, a spokesperson for Maryland State Police said the agency is unable to share information pertaining to the allegations in the lawsuit, which is currently "under legal review."

"The Maryland Department of State Police remains committed to providing the highest quality of law enforcement services to the people of Maryland, while ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all employees. Significant actions have been taken and are continuing to address even the perception of racism or unfair treatment of any kind," the statement said.

News of the class action lawsuit comes after the U.S. Department of Justice announced in July it had opened an investigation into the Maryland Department of State Police regarding similar alleged racial discrimination in hiring and promotion practices.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and State Police Superintendent Woodrow W. Jones, III said at the time they welcomed the probe and would cooperate with the investigation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.