Sgt. Larissa LaMay, a white gay Michigan State Police sergeant is suing the state police, claiming that its new diversity initiatives discriminate against white people like her. She also alleges in the suit that she was subjected to a homophobic atmosphere by her supervisor.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Michigan, stems from a promotion LaMay didn’t get in January that instead went to a Black woman, The Detroit News reports. LaMay claims in the suit that her fellow officer had been “disciplined for failing to show up for work and falsifying records to conceal it,” and therefore did not earn the promotion. She further contends that her supervisor subjected her to antigay language during a meeting last year.
LaMay isn’t alone in her suit, as three other white employees of the deparment have also sued the agency since May for the same thing. The suits all mention comments made by state police director Col. Joseph Gasper last October. In a public meeting, Gasper said that the department, which is 90 percent white (compared to 78 percent of the state’s population) and 91 percent male, was “way too white and way too male.” He added that he wanted to set aside a portion of future job openings for women and minorities.
According to LaMay, this comment coming from “the top official of a para-military organization” constitutes “standard operating procedure, a pattern and practice of racial preferences designed to favor Blacks over Whites at all levels of the agency.” However, many activists say that a largely white police force endangers Black civilians, increasing their risk of arrest and brutality.
Regarding anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, the suit alleges that Keyonn Whitfield, commander of the state police post in Oak Park, made several disparaging remarks about gay officers after a gay state trooper gave a presentation about the challenges facing LGBTQ+ officers.
The suit claims that at a mandatory meeting on November 20, 2019, Whitfield “expounded 6-7 times on the oddity of a gay law enforcement officer.” It also alleges that “Whitfield’s bias against gay employees was laid bare in the presence of 10 sergeants and 1 lieutenant, yet nobody reported the comments until 5 months later.”
Jim Fett, LaMay’s attorney, said that police officials are violating LaMay’s Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution along with the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a Michigan law that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and age. “The MSP is drunk on diversity,” he said in an email to the News. “So drunk that they are using illegal means (racial and gender preferences) to achieve it.”
Fett also represents two other state police employees suing the agency for being disciplined for speaking out against affirmative action efforts.
Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner responded to the suit by telling the News, “The Michigan State Police is committed to maintaining a work environment where there is equal opportunity for all members, one in which decisions regarding employment, promotion, retention, or any other personnel practice are not motivated by bias or based on discrimination.”