Memphis police promote 70 officers after long ordeal

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It was all smiles at Memphis City Hall when 70 police sergeants were promoted to lieutenants five years after they took the test to qualify.

That's because the officers were embroiled in a bitter Tennessee Supreme Court battle.

In 2005, the city deemed the qualifying test racially biased after most of the people with the top scores were white.

Some officers who passed the "racially imbalanced" test sued after they failed the second test and did not get promoted.

A Supreme Court judge eventually ruled the test was "racially imbalanced," so the ceremony was bitter-sweet for those who did get promoted to lieutenant.

"You have a lot of individuals who were not promoted who deserve to be promoted, but for whatever reason they're still in the process," said newly promoted Lieutenant Dennis McNeil.  "But on the positive side, we have an opportunity now to show out leadership to go out into the community and be productive," he added.

Police Director Larry Godwin says the promotion means the department can move forward.

"It's hard to have that movement because every rank effects other ranks and we're finally seeing some movement," Godwin said.

Anonymous sources tell Action News 5 the officers promoted today will receive back pay. The city did not confirm if that was true.

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