28 high-ranking MPD officers could be demoted

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More than two dozen high-ranking Memphis officers could be stripped of their positions by the end of the week.

The officers sued the city, saying the tests they took to get promoted discriminated against African-American officers, and that's why they failed.

Now nearly 15 years later, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge ruled the tests didn't discriminate, and those officers should never have been promoted.

Twenty-eight officers were involved in the suit. They were promoted to lieutenant several years ago and have continued to climb rank. Some are now majors in the department.

City attorneys will meet with the officers to try to reach an agreement, but if they can't, we could see changes in MPD.

It all started in 2000 and 2002, when the 28 Memphis sergeants failed a test trying to get promoted to lieutenant.

They said it wasn't their fault, because the test discriminated against black officers. They then took the city to court.

A federal judge agreed with the officers in 2010, and ordered the officers keep their ranks, get back pay, and the city covers their $1 million court costs.

Now an appellate judge changed everything in late October, ruling the promotion test was perfectly fine and didn't violate any civil rights laws.

"This ruling has been on the table for several weeks. The most recent action was in the Supreme Court that said it is not going to hear this case," Chief Administrative Officer George Little said. "So either some agreement is reached relative to the demotions, or we are prepared to execute on the judge's order and demote the individuals. Director Armstrong and his staff will figure out how to handle that."

Little said the city will ultimately do what the court orders.

It will try to work out an agreement with the officers, but isn't making any promises.

"What is at stake for the individual is the possibility of being demoted and in some cases down several ranks, which would be reductions in pay. That would also be very disruptive in the operation of MPD. That said, we are going to be pursuant to a court order, whether it is agreed or a judge's order," Little said.

Little said we should know if an agreement is reached or MPD starts stripping ranks by the end of next week.

In the meantime, MPD Director Toney Armstrong is meeting with city attorneys, the officers, and unions to make sure this doesn't affect you.

"I don't want to demote anybody. I certainly want to give everybody the opportunity to move their careers forward. I think it would be the best interest of all parties involved," Armstrong said.

Little said this entire process has been tiresome for everyone involved.

"It has got to be stressful not knowing whether or not you are going to be demoted back. This was a group of individuals, so we got to make a decision as a group of individuals. We can't pick one individual over another. I'm sure that's creating issues within MPD," Little said.

The Memphis Police Association said it's not involved in this lawsuit.

The Afro Police Association is in charge.

Director Armstrong said he will meet with the union tomorrow.

We reached out to the APA president at the time of the lawsuit, but are still waiting to hear back.

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