Almost every Black officer at this Tennessee police department says they’ve experienced discrimination


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By Zachary Schermele, NBC News

“If you are a Black officer, you have to work five times harder,” one officer anonymously told an outside review firm.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported last year that police department leadership tried to conceal an officer’s racist comments and deter a Black officer from making a complaint about the incident. (Caitie McMekin / USA Today Network)

Almost all the 15 Black officers at the police department in Knoxville, Tennessee, have felt discriminated against, according to an external review of the department. And none of them thinks the promotional process is fair, either. 

The recently released review was conducted by 21CP Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in improving policing. It was commissioned by Knoxville Police Department’s new chief, Paul Noel, who took over the role in June. 

The findings come on the heels of years of allegations, scrupulously covered by the Knoxville News Sentinel, of racist behavior in the department, which serves a town of more than 180,000 people in eastern Tennessee. Last year, the paper reported that department leadership had attempted to conceal an officer’s racist comments and deter a Black officer from making a complaint about the incident. The controversy was indicative of a larger problem of racism at the department, multiple officers told Knox News at the time. 

The new climate assessment relies on focus groups and an anonymous survey, in which almost all of the department’s roughly 360 sworn officers and most of its about 100 nonsworn personnel responded. The survey was open for two weeks at the beginning of August. 

The results offer a rare, bare-bones look at the department’s internal culture and paint a stark picture of ongoing racial divides. 

Read more about this survey.

Aside from outright racism, Black workers still earn less.

Check out these news stories impacting Black people.

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