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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                    Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                               Facebook    Twitter         Blog    
November 17, 2013                        
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Photo of Police Officer Richard Barries
Photo courtesy of the Talking with Henrietta television show.
This photo shows former East Palo Alto Police Officer Richard Barries, during his appearance on the 2009 Talking with Henrietta television show titled, Youth Events Can They Make A Meaninful Difference? See a video excerpt from the show by clicking here.

 

Amid the recent charges of racism that four African American police officers filed against East Palo Alto's former Police Chief, Ron Davis, another African American police officer claims that he had a different experience working under Davis.

Richard Barries, a former East Palo Alto police officer, who is a sergeant with the Stanford University Department of Public Safety, copied several members of the press on an email that he sent to Magda González, East Palo Alto's city manager, in which he denied that he was subjected to racism or unfair treatment when he worked with the East Palo Alto Police Department.

Barries wrote his email in response to the formal complaint filed with the City of East Palo Alto by Sgt. Roderick Norris, Sgt. Renaldo Rhodes, Officer Paul Norris and Officer Charles Hines. In their complaint, the four police officers said that they were subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment that was fostered within the East Palo Alto Police Department by Davis.

Barries, who worked for the East Palo Alto Police Department for nearly three years, stated that he did not witness any of the discrimination or hostility that his former fellow officers cited in the complaint that they filed against Davis.

In the email that was sent on November 17, Barries stated,

I am writing in response to the recent news articles about the alleged racial discrimination claim against former Chief Ron Davis.
 
My name is Richard Barries. I am African-American, and I worked as a Police Officer in the City of East Palo Alto from 2008-2011. During that time, I never witnessed former Chief Ron Davis discriminate against anyone based on their race. Furthermore, I have never experienced any form of discrimination by Davis.
 
Davis was one of the reasons I chose to work in East Palo Alto. Part of my childhood was spent growing up in the East Palo Alto/East Menlo Park area. I witnessed the violence in this area firsthand. I cannot put into words the effect the violence had on the community and my family. Davis helped reduce violence in this area, and build the relationship between the community and the police department. I was inspired by his efforts and wanted to be part of making East Palo Alto a safer place to live. Davis gave me that opportunity when he hired me.  

While working in East Palo Alto, I was given several opportunities to advance my career by Davis. He also gave other Black officers opportunities. I left East Palo Alto for another local police department for reasons that had nothing to do with Davis. Davis encouraged me to continue working in East Palo Alto and told me I could come back to the department if things did not workout at my new agency. 
 
Davis is not only a role model for Black officers, but for officers in general. The work he has done, and continues to do, should be commended. I wish him the best in his new position, and hope he can bring positive changes nationally as he did in the City of East Palo Alto.
 
I write this willingly, without duress. I was not instructed to write this letter by Davis or any of his current or former employees. Due to the nature of the investigation, I will not make any additional comments at this time.
 
Respectfully,
Richard Barries

The officers' complaint and Barries comments come in the wake of Davis' resignation from the East Palo Alto Police Department on Friday, October 25, 2013.

Davis formally left his city position on November 8 to start on November 12 in Washington, D.C. as the director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

In their two-and-a-half page complaint, dated November 1 that was addressed to the the city’s Assistant City Manager, Barbara Powell, the four officers cited at least eleven examples to support their charge that African American police officers were subjected to "abrasive, belittling and dismissive" treatment within the East Palo Alto Police Department.

They cited as examples in their complaint that:

"There have been no African American female police officers hired during Chief Davis' tenure. There have been no African Americans to serve in the Investigative Division at the rank of detective. There have been no African Americans [to] serve in the Traffic/Motor Division. Until mid 2013 only one African American male had been hired to serve as a police officer."

The four officers also said, "We believe [Davis]... has engaged in an ongoing pattern and practice of discrimination against past and present African American employees which amounts to a violation [of] Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California Assembly Bill 1825."

The four officers ended their complaint by stating, “We are seeking immediate relief and remedy to Chief Davis’ outrageous practices and unfair treatment.”

Powell described the officers' charges "as a confidential personnel-related complaint." She added, "The City immediately began undertaking appropriate actions as soon as it received the complaint."

When asked what policies and procedures the city is using to respond to the complaint, Powell replied, “The City of East Palo Alto takes all allegations of discrimination very seriously, looks into them very carefully and will take appropriate action as needed.”

To this writer's knowledge, other than Powell's limited comments, there have been no public comments by East Palo Alto council members or other city staff regarding the four officers' complaint.

 

Other Related East Palo Alto Today articles:

Trouble reported within the East Palo Alto Police Department

East Palo Alto gets an interim police chief

East Palo Alto will soon lose its chief of police

 

Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at epatoday@epatoday.org.