La Crosse police officer files second discrimination complaint - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

La Crosse police officer files second discrimination complaint

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A La Crosse police officer who claims he was racially discriminated against and later retaliated against after he came forward with the allegations has filed a second complaint.

Officer Tony Clark, a black officer on the force, filed his first complaint last April including allegations such as being told he was "white on the inside" and had a banana left in his locker.

That complaint became public in August and shortly after, the department launched an investigation into his actions on the job on an early morning shift in late August.

"This investigation that the city conducted was not designed to look for the truth," Jim Birnbaum, Clark's attorney, said. "It was designed to find a defense and an excuse for failing to do the right thing regarding the allegations in the first place."

The department reprimanded Clark when he failed to respond to a call about a gun left in a downtown bar, withheld intelligence about a suspect in a violent crime and allowed an unlicensed driver to leave a traffic stop without a citation.

The city then notified Clark on Oct. 7 that he was being investigated for his actions back in August, according to his complaint. The complaint also states he was not told who had filed the complaint or what improper conduct he was alleged to have done.

"If in fact this behavior that they now disciplined him for was so egregious, they waited two months to complete this crusade before they did anything," Birnbaum said. "They never even told him they were investigating it, they never even told him that they believed he did anything wrong. If you have an officer that engages in behavior you think is wrong, you usually don't wait two months."

Clark goes on in his complaint to say he felt the "interrogation" was "threatening, offensive and harassing."

On Nov. 24, Clark was issued a written reprimand related to his actions on August 31.

"We're talking about a disparity of treatment, of standard and then we're also talking about an investigation of unprecedented proportions," Birnbaum said.

The city denies all of Clark's claims.

"The ball is in the city's court," Birnbaum said. "We have not resolved anything not because we have not been willing to approach it or broach the subject. This is now our second overture directly through the investigator, and whether we sit down or not is going to depend on whether the city is willing to do so."

Birnbaum said it is up to Clark as to how he wants to proceed with the case.

If no resolution can be arrived at between he and the city, Clark can choose to pursue the case at the state or federal level.

"We could request a notice of right to sue and sue the city in federal court," he said. "That is not our preference, it's the absolute last resort. But when you drive into a brick wall repeatedly, sometimes you have to do what you'd rather not do.

WXOW reached out to the mayor's office and city attorney, both of witch referred us to the city's human resource director, Wendy Oestrich.

Oestrich, along with the city's lawyer in Milwaukee, Mary Nelson, have not returned our calls.

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