A federal jury has awarded police Cpl. Byron Hickey $306,000 in his suit claiming the city of Columbus discriminated against him because he spoke out against racial and gender bias.
City Attorney Clifton Fay said he was disappointed with the verdict, but believes the city has grounds for an appeal. Fay declined to cite those grounds, saying he would have to discuss the next step with Columbus Council, and then councilors would decide.
Hickey claimed in his suit that his superiors retaliated against him when he spoke up for former Officer Alicia Davenport. Hickey alleged that he got a negative job review, he was put on extended leave so he couldn’t earn extra income from off-duty jobs, and he was transferred out of the Vice and Narcotics Division.
Davenport filed a federal suit in December 2006. Davenport, who also is black, alleged she didn’t get the same backup white officers received while on undercover duty. When she complained, she got an undesirable assignment, she claimed.
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Davenport also alleged she was subjected to sexual comments by officers Dean Walton, David Horiuchi and Rodney Spear.
A jury found in September 2008 that Davenport had been discriminated against based on her gender only. It recommended she receive $5,000.
Hickey filed his suit in June 2007.
“After she spoke up, Corporal Hickey spoke up,” said Gwyn Newsom, who represents Hickey, in opening statements. “From that point on, everything changed for him.”
That was in late December 2005. In January 2006, Hickey fired a gun at a suspect who’d just vandalized his wife’s police car. That triggered an investigation, which regularly occurs when an officer fires his gun, Newsom said.
Most investigations last less than a week. Hickey’s lasted five months, she added.
Several complaints to Police Chief Ricky Boren and a meeting with then-Mayor Bob Poydasheff had no result, until Hickey filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Newsom said.
“Retaliation was designed to make it very clear to Corporal Hickey that he should not speak up,” Newsom said.