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Black sergeant sues San Diego Police Department over racist cartoon

Century-old racist cartoon leads to lawsuit by black police officer in San Diego

An African American San Diego police officer is suing the Police Department, alleging that he suffered harassment and job retaliation after complaining about the use of a racist cartoon during a training session.

Sgt. Arthur Scott, 43, a 10-year veteran of the department, complained about the cartoon, which depicted Frank McCarter, the department's first black officer, as "ape-like." The cartoon appeared around 1909 in the San Diego Sun newspaper.

In the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Scott by attorney Daniel Gilleon, Scott said the cartoon was displayed at a training session in August for prospective lieutenants.

The cartoon was displayed to show the political atmosphere in San Diego when McCarter was an officer, including when he was assigned to patrol a Chinese neighborhood in downtown. The cartoon includes racist images of Chinese and the word "chinks."

After Scott complained to the instructor, the cartoon was removed from the training materials. But several weeks later, Scott carried his complaint to an assistant chief.

The lawsuit asserts that as a result, Scott was denied promotion, threatened with "frivolous disciplinary action" involving his conduct in the field, and then transferred to a job where promotions will be more difficult to obtain.

This was not the first time that Scott had complained about racist images. In 2011, the lawsuit asserts, he complained about racist images of President Obama that were posted on lockers of police officers.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, asked for comment on the lawsuit, said: "We take these allegations seriously. We will fully cooperate and support any and all investigations into this matter."

Filed in San Diego County Superior Court, the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

On Tuesday, the San Diego's Black Police Officers Assn. issued a statement supporting Scott's lawsuit. Scott is the association's vice president.

The association "works hard to overcome historical, institutional and societal barriers that once denied criminal justice practitioners of color, and women, equal access to the law enforcement career field," the statement said.

For more San Diego County news, follow @LATsandiego.

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