AUSTIN, Texas - Two Texas Department of Public Safety officers are suing the department for unlawful discriminatory employment practices.
The lawsuit alleges that Jari McPherson and Jarald Sams, who are Black, were subjected to retaliation, denied promotion, training, and job assignments because of their race.
Jari McPherson allegations against TxDPS
McPherson, who lives in Bell County, has served as a TxDPS officer for more than 18 years. The lawsuit says he has always achieved "meets expectations" or above on his annual job performance evaluations and received special recognition for his work several times.
The lawsuit claims that in May 2018, McPherson was removed from the Regulatory Services Division (RSD) in Austin and placed in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Temple. While he was there, McPherson was the only Black person in his unit and was repeatedly subjected to "outrageous and abusive treatment" by TxDPS command because of his race.
According to the lawsuit, McPherson says he got a ‘verbal warning’ for leaving his duty station without informing his lieutenant, even though he had permission in the past and white co-workers did the same. Then, his supervisors elevated the warning to a ‘written warning’ which would remain in his personnel file for the rest of his career and impact his ability to be promoted.
The lawsuit also says in November 2018, a white co-worker told McPherson that his supervisor had told the co-worker to install a tracking device on his car, but not the cars of other co-workers who were white.
After that, he was denied a request to grow facial hair and scrutinized and criticized for his written reports, even though his white colleagues were not.
The lawsuit says at least four white co-workers acknowledged that McPherson was being treated less favorably.
McPherson complained to his supervisors and eventually filed a written EEOC complaint with TxDPS' OIG about the incidents of discrimination and harassment, but the lawsuit says the subsequent investigation did not sustain his complaints.
He requested a transfer to Austin CID in September 2019, and moved the following month. But his treatment didn't improve.
The lawsuit says his supervisor was consistently and unjustifiably critical of McPherson. He was denied a request to be placed on 7C2 Counter Surveillance Unit, a unit with no Black officers, and the position was given to a less-qualified white candidate. Then he was placed on the 7C1 unit which consists only of persons of color. The lawsuit says 7C1 is given more difficult, onerous tasks than the other units.
In June 2020, the 7C1 supervisor, who is Hispanic, filed a written EEOC complaint alleging discrimination as well.
The lawsuit says a co-worker told McPherson that a white supervisor of one of the all-white CID units circulated pictures of himself wearing a ‘Hitler mustache’ and a picture of himself with two black socks with the inscription ‘Black Socks Matter', mocking ‘Black Lives Matter'.
Later, CID Command took away McPherson's TxDPS car citing a policy that requires officers to live within a 50-mile radius of Austin, but white officers who live outside that radius were allowed to keep theirs, according to the lawsuit. Possession of a TxDPS vehicle gives officers two hours of paid overtime a day, which resulted in a $1,500 monthly loss of earnings.
McPherson is seeking damages, including requiring TxDPS to give him the privilege to use a TxDPS vehicle.
Jarald Sams allegations against TxDPS
Jarald Sams, who lives in Travis County, has served as a TxDPS officer for more than 26 years. Like McPherson, the lawsuit says he has always achieved "meets expectations" or above on his annual job performance evaluations and received special recognition for his work several times.
While working in the TxDPS Mounted Patrol Unit, the lawsuit says Sams was falsely accused of overworking white officers within the unit, but Sams was a corporal and didn't have authority over the other troopers. He was demoted as a result of the allegation and was never provided with evidence justifying it.
Sams developed the written operations procedures manual for the TxDPS Mounted Unit. In September 2018, the lawsuit says a white lieutenant accused him of trying to turn the unit into a ‘Buffalo Soldiers Unit.’
In July 2018, the lawsuit says a captain took a picture of Sams trimming a horse's hooves, texted the photo to a friend, and the captain read his friend's response out loud, stating ‘I have never seen a Black man doing that before' and laughed.
Sams filed a complaint against the captain with TxDPS OIG for racial discrimination. After 15 months, TxDPS sustained his complaint. When the captain posted a supervisor job, Sams applied, but it was given to a less-qualified white candidate. The lawsuit alleges it was retaliation. Sams filed another complaint with TxDPS OIG, but this time it was not sustained. Instead, it said it ‘identified potential for improvement that would be addressed through training.’
He was denied the ability to apply for the position when it was posted again, according to the lawsuit.
Sams is seeking damages, including requiring TxDPS to promote him to Sergeant of the Mounted Unit.