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Ex-Banning officers allege discrimination

April 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a battle in Riverside County over alleged discrimination within the Banning Police Dept. Several former Banning Police officers have filed a claim, asking for an apology.

The city of Banning has just under 30,000 residents. About 2,000 are African-American. And in the Banning Police Department there are 33 sworn officers on active duty.

But of that group, not one of them is African-American.

Greg Herrington is a former Banning Police officer. He says he was fired for insubordination. But he and others are claiming that all African-American police officers in the department have been systematically removed.

"The biggest thing that we want to see is just some justice, and some equality, that we've all suffered through, and we had to suffer through at the Banning Police Department," said Herrington.

No lawsuit has been filed so far, but the group did file an outline with the city manager Monday asking for a formal apology, a department-wide investigation and $1.5 million in damages for each officer.

"This is something that has to stop," said attorney Rupert Byrdsong. "Here we are in 2011 and these things are still going on."

But despite what the group's attorney is saying, Banning's police chief says they've accomplished a lot when it comes to diversity.

"When I started here six years ago, we didn't have any female officers, and we worked hard to hire female officers and we've been successful," said Banning Police Chief Leonard Purvis.

Purvis did not say why these officers were fired, saying it's a personnel matter.

"We've had to terminate some officers for some very severe misconduct and we're committed to that -- if we have officers that aren't following policy and procedure, who are violating the law, we're going to hold them accountable," said Purvis.

The group that filed the complaint says if they're not satisfied with the city's answer, they will consider a lawsuit.