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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Navin Sharma - A Good Cop Who Can't Be A Cop Wins Settlement

(UPDATE: Another suit has been filed against the city of Vancouver in December of 2008 related to this case, more information about this case and the related case can be found here).

Navin Sharma was, by all indications, a good and dedicated police officer with the Vancouver Washington police department. Navin's efforts with the department to develop the Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS-SWAT) Unit was instrumental in saving the lives of numerous fellow officers and citizens alike and his efforts to lead charity drives and events were inspirational.

Navin started with the department in 1997, however things went downhill for him after he testified against senior officers during an internal investigation, that's when the threats and harassment began. Superiors would use crude racial slurs when referring to him, rude notes were left on his cruiser by fellow officers, he would get profane messages on his answering machine constantly.. He filed a suit against the city in the hopes of stopping the harassment and threats in 2001 after officers threatened him during a roll call meeting and he won that suit, but the harassment still continued. All the while, his efforts to stop the harassment failed and his complaints went unheeded while city officials would refer to him as "Sharmageddon" or "the sand nigger who sued the City and won".

Navin was finally forced to resign in 2006 for copying and pasting information for DUI reports, a practice used by many other officers in the department without any consequences. In fact, during the current suit filed against the city it became clear that other officers who did much worse kept their jobs, and his suit prevailed because it was made clear that the city was merely looking for any excuse to get rid of an honest officer who told the truth and the city was punishing him for it.

Navin Sharma won a 1.6 million dollar settlement from the city of Vancouver Washington yesterday, (read the press release here), perhaps the largest ever employment discrimination suit against a city in the state of Washington. But the cause of the disturbing racial abuse wasn't just because Sharma's east Indian race, but the fact that he was brave and ethical enough to not perjure himself when testifying about other police officers. His racial background was merely the tool with which the city's police officers and elected officials used to punish him for telling the truth.

Navin, currently working as a nurse, now says it's unlikely that he can ever work in law enforcement again even though he wishes he could. While part of the settlement forced the city to amend his records to show he resigned in good standing, removes him from the Brady list of officers who can't give testimony, to change state records which canceled Navin's law enforcement certification, issue several commendations, and restore his rights to his pension; he says word of mouth will have more impact on his ability to get another law enforcement job, and even then it appears that his reputation for being honest will keep him out of the career he loved.

Good luck Mr. Sharma, the police desperately need more role models like you... and it's damn shame that they don't want them. Unfortunately, it's another example that shows even police officers can be the victim of police misconduct.


FBM said...

Indeed they can. My city was forced to pay out $1.64 million on a racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation case in 2005.

Ste. Goldie said...

I believe there more will come out about HOW corrupt the Vancouver, WA Police Department is. I will be following the fallout of this closely.

Packratt said...

FBM, True, such suits can win, but I think this case was rooted in something more sinister than just racism alone, it was a vile vehicle for retaliation in this case.

Oh, I agree, the fact that city officials got in on the retaliation against officer Sharma is very indicative of a very deep-seated corruption that extends well beyond the confines of the police department.

I fully plan on doing follow-ups to this story as I think it's far from over yet.

Thanks for the comments!

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