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Retirement Denied to Police Critic

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Times Staff Writer

The city of Hawthorne has refused to grant a disability retirement to a police officer who has become active in fighting police racism in Southern California.

In an interview Wednesday, Hawthorne City Manager R. Kenneth Jue said Police Sgt. Don Jackson’s request for a disability retirement was rejected this week by because city officials were not convinced that he has a permanent disability. The personnel staff denied the request with the approval of the city manager.

Jackson, 30, has been on a stress disability leave since April, 1987, when he accused the Police Department of being racist toward minority officers and the public. He said that while on active duty he regularly heard minorities, including himself, referred to as “niggers,” “wetbacks” or “gooks.”

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Harassment Worsened

Harassment from fellow officers worsened, Jackson said, when he was promoted to sergeant in December, 1986. He was accused by some officers of using his rank to favor minority suspects. Such accusations peaked, he said, after he refused to permit what he believed was an illegal search of a black man’s apartment. A supervisor said Jackson had not filed the proper reports, and this error led to his suspension for two weeks. The suspension was reduced to a written reprimand.

Police Chief Kenneth R. Stonebraker has declined to comment on Jackson’s allegations, saying state law requires that such matters be kept confidential.

In an interview, Stonebraker said racism is no more prevalent in the Hawthorne Police Department than it is nationwide. When asked at a City Council meeting last month to respond to public complaints about police racism, he defended the department and said he has instructed employees to attend sensitivity training sessions on minority issues.

Meanwhile, Jackson has broadened his campaign against racism by founding an organization called Law Enforcement Officers for Justice. Jackson and others from the 38-member group have appeared throughout the region to protest what they believe are instances of racist behavior in law enforcement agencies in Santa Monica, Glendale, Westminster and San Bernardino, as well as Hawthorne.

Jackson is also chairman of the Police Practices Committee for the Los Angeles chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

In an interview Wednesday, Jackson said Hawthorne city officials are acting in a punitive manner against him because he made claims of racism against the department.

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Jackson said that in denying his disability retirement this week, city officials “are punishing me in the best way they know how--by starving me out.” He said he is receiving disability pay of $800 a month, less than one-fourth of his police sergeant’s monthly salary of $3,600. (City officials said Jackson received full pay for the first year of his disability leave under state law governing public safety employees.)

Since he went on disability leave, Jackson said, the city has adopted personnel rules that prevent an officer on disability leave from working in security or investigative jobs. Thus, he said, he has no way of supplementing his income until his case is resolved.

Because his doctors have told him not to go back to his police job, Jackson said, his options are limited.

Although he can appeal the personnel staff’s denial of his disability retirement, Jackson said he plans instead to pursue a lawsuit he filed against the city in January, alleging racial discrimination and harassment.

He will also continue efforts to obtain a Workmen’s Compensation ruling that would establish that his disability is work-related and award him permanent benefits, he said.

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