Texas Police Woman Accused of Trying to Hire Too Many African-Americans Settles Lawsuit with City After White Officers Complained

Cleo Birckbichler
Photo Denton PD

The city of Denton has agreed to pay $68,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former police department recruiter who said she was retaliated against because she funneled too many African-American candidates into the pipeline for jobs with the Denton Police Department.

The Denton City Council approved the settlement offer designed to end the lawsuit earlier this month.

Denton Police Department recruiter and background investigator Cleopatra Birckbichler, who is African-American, was accused by white officers of favoring unqualified black job applicants over more qualified white applicants, she said in the lawsuit.

White police officers complained during an Oct. 28, 2015, “town hall meeting” hosted by former Police Chief Lee Howell that Birckbichler was hiring too many black employees and asked that she be removed from her position.

Birckbichler countered that she did not make any hiring decisions.

On Jan. 4, 2018, Howell told Birckbichler that she was being removed from her position because she was not a “team player” and that the Denton Municipal Police Association, of which Birckbichler was president, “went to the City Manager” to complain and she should have steered them toward Howell, the lawsuit said.

Howell also complained that Birckbichler sent him emails about accusations that she was making race-based hiring decisions, when he asked her not to do so in writing, according to the lawsuit.

Birckbichler’s last day working as a recruiter and background investigator was Jan. 29, 2018. She took medical leave until her return on May 14, 2018, when she assumed new duties as school resource officer, the lawsuit stated. Birckbichler retired from the Denton Police Department Dec. 31, according to a city official.

Howell, who was not named in the lawsuit, said he was not aware that litigation had been filed until recently and had not formed a response to the allegations made against him.

City Councilwoman Deb Armintor recused herself from the 4-1 vote approving the settlement offer, saying she had a conflict of interest. Armintor said she disagreed with some of the conclusions in the city’s investigation of Birckbichler’s claims and had asked Birckbichler about her Denton Police Department experiences.

Armintor said she was told by city officials that it was not a good idea for her to communicate with someone suing the city.

“I was really pretty horrified that the investigation concluded that her [Birckbichler’s] complaints of racism were wrong and that it made her out to be hysterical,“ Armintor said. “I may have even used the terms hatchet job and cover-up.”

During the Jan. 8 City Council meeting, current Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon, who is black, presented a departmental review prepared by the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF.

The review concluded that some in the department believe that cronyism is a problem at the Denton Police Department, especially with respect to promotions and special assignments. The report also highlighted a lack of internal communication from the department’s senior leaders regarding the hiring of minorities.

Police department leaders examined the issue and found that unfair practices had not been used to give preferential treatment to minority applicants in the hiring process, the report stated. PERF also reported that the previous chief, Howell, led “town hall meetings” in an effort to address the race issue and dispel misconceptions.

“However, this continues to be an underlying issue in the department,” the PERF report concluded.

Armintor said she agreed with the findings in the PERF report and encouraged the city to go further with reform. Most of the PERF recommendations have been put into policy, but a lot more is needed, Armintor said.

The investigation conducted by the city was flawed, she said.

“We investigated ourselves and found there was no racism,” she said.

Click here to continue reading.

SOURCE: Fort Worth Star-Telegram – MITCH MITCHELL