Ohio police officer suing his own department for discrimination

Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 15, 2019

EUCLID, Ohio - A Euclid police officer is suing his own department, accusing officers- including some of his supervisors - of discrimination and retaliation. The lawsuit claims he has been the target of anti-Hispanic jokes against Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

Officer Shane Rivera is of Puerto Rican descent and has been on the Euclid police force since 2013. According to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Officer Rivera has endured unwelcome and offensive comments in recent months that he said creates a hostile work environment.

"Officer Rivera is of Puerto Rican descent...that has become the butt of many jokes in the police station," said Rivera’s attorney Sean Sobel.

According to the lawsuit, the harassment began in October 2018 when someone placed a poster on a bulletin board in the roll call room. The photo was titled "Missing Donkey Pepe."

"[It was] actually taken off the bulletin board, placed in a folder and passed around during daily meetings," Sobel said.

Court documents claimed the poster references the officer's badge number "82" and "was intended as a slur based on the harasser's mistaken belief that Officer Rivera is of Mexican descent."

The suit also claims in November, another poster was placed in the main hallway. It depicts a scene from the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles," with Officer Rivera's badge number written on the hat of the Mexican Bandit character.

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It claims a poster with a scene from the 2004 movie "Napoleon Dynamite" appeared in December. Officer Rivera's face is super imposed over the character Pedro.

Then, January 3, 2019, the suit accuses a sergeant of joking during roll call..."What are Puerto Ricans?” followed by the punchline, "shipwrecked Mexicans."

It also accuses a lieutenant, referring to President Trump's border wall, of asking "How are you going to get Pepe over the wall when you ride Pepe to work?"

"These comments go above and beyond simple politics, and we believe they were attacking Officer Rivera based on his national origin," Sobel said.

Euclid police Chief Scott Meyer released a statement, reading in part:

"...the Euclid Police Department is committed to the fair and ethical treatment of all people, including our own employees. I do not tolerate or condone any harassment or discriminatory behavior..."

Chief Meyer said he cannot speak specifically about the lawsuit, but said any such behavior shall be handled swiftly and severely.

Officer Rivera also filed a complaint this week with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.