MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Twenty-eight African-American Memphis police officers could be demoted and required to return back-pay after a recent appeals court ruling.
Fifteen years ago, the officers won a lawsuit against City of Memphis that found promotion tests were discriminatory toward African-Americans and women. A judge agreed and those officers were promoted.
Now, a new court decision could change that.
"The possibility exists for demotions," said City of Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little. "Received word that the Supreme Court is not going to hear the appeal in the case of the 28 officers."
The officers sued the city in 2000. After a federal judge sided with the officers, the city appealed to a higher court. The appeals court sided with the city.
The officers then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the city says the Supreme Court is now choosing not to take up the case. The case will revert back to the most recent ruling.
"The lawsuit essentially had been found in favor of the city," Little added.
By mid-February, the city expects to lower the officers' pay and rank. Some of those officers are now majors and lieutenants in the police department.
"You're talking about people who have 20 plus years and have given outstanding service to this city," said Afro American Police Association (AAPA) spokesman Tyrone Curry.
AAPA says it has no knowledge about the U.S. Supreme Court not hearing the appeal. Curry says training others for such high positions will hurt the whole city.
"You take 28 of your good leadership out of the way, somewhere along the line, you have to train these other people and get them up to par," explained Christopher Price, AAPA. "That would never happen anytime soon."
Chief Little doesn't expect the officers to have to pay back money from their higher salaries all these years.
"We're appealing to their ears and good sound minds to look at the service these people have given over the years and do not do such a catastrophic act in demoting them," Curry added.
Little says the city is willing to negotiate an agreed order with the association. If not, they'll follow the court order and demote the officers.