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I-Team: Allegations of racism surface in Battle Creek Police Dept.

Updated: Friday, August 16, 2013 |
I-Team: Allegations of racism surface in Battle Creek Police Dept. story image
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team is learning that two Battle Creek police officers have been disciplined after violating city policy.

The officers were investigated because they were involved in posting and writing on a racially-insensitive poster inside the city's police department.

The two officers who have been reprimanded told their bosses they didn't mean to offend anybody putting up a poster referencing the movie Napoleon Dynamite, and that it was simply a joke.

But the managers at the Battle Creek Police Department didn't find the joke funny and neither did a Battle Creek officer who is at the center of the controversy.

If you've seen the movie, you're familiar with one of its most memorable gags--a simple t-shirt that says "Vote for Pedro."

In the movie, a transfer student from Mexico who runs for election at an American high school and ends up being elected class president.

At the Battle Creek Police Department earlier this year, Officer Tom Rivera, who is Hispanic, was involved in his own election, as he decided to run for office in the local police union.

On the day of the election, at least four posters were placed on the walls of the police station with the movie's Pedro character displayed.

Later, another officer wrote below the picture on one poster, Tom Rivera for Chief Steward, with an arrow pointing to the picture.

On another poster, the words "Viva El Thomas" were written.

Documents we obtained show it's clear Rivera was very offended by what happened, and notified his superiors immediately, to inform them that he didn't think it was right.

In a statement to Newschannel 3, Rivera's lawyer Matt Glaser said Rivera felt he was a victim of racism.

Glaser said he hoped the department would send a strong message to its employees regarding what happened, so the I-Team investigated how BCPD handled it.

Documents obtained by the I-Team show the police department investigated the incident internally over several months and found that two officers were involved.

Police documents indicate Officer Eric Andrews put up the posters, and animal control officer Mike Ehart wrote Rivera's name on the pictures.

"The investigation is unable to prove that the officers' actions were specifically meant to harass Officer Rivera.  Their actions,  however, clearly violated the city's nondiscrimination policy which prohibits the displaying or distributing of offensive materials  based upon one or more of the protected categories. Violations of City policy can lead to corrective action up to and including  dismissal," the investigation concluded.

Before the internal investigation was complete, Deputy Police Chief James Saylor sent a memo to all BCPD personnel about the incident, reiterating the city's non-discrimination policy, and threatening officers that they could lose their job if it happened again.

Finally, the two officers involved were disciplined for what happened--a memo obtained by Newschannel 3 indicated that the corrective action for the two officers was a documented oral reprimand.

Glaser told Newschannel 3 that his client was not happy with the outcome, saying, "the reality is I think police officers in Battle Creek in general, when you get to the bottom of it, they're playing fast and loose."

Police Chief Jackie Hampton chose to answer our questions in the form of a statement, fearing legal action against his department may result from this case.

Regarding the level of discipline, Chief Hampton said, "I am very confident this behavior will not be repeated. The discipline we chose is designed to alter and change behavior.

"I think the employees were honest when they were interviewed. Both have integrity. It was a joke from their perspective. From our perspective, it was far from a joke," he added.

A study done several years ago by community members showed the majority of Hispanics in Battle Creek don't believe police officers treat them with respect.

On Thursday, leaders in the community say that over the last couple of years, there is a growing trust, despite these events.

Rivera's attorney says his client has started the process to potentially sue the city for what happened.
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Business News

Last Update on December 19, 2014 08:36 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report on November's state unemployment rates this morning.

In October, unemployment rates fell in 34 U.S. states, a sign that steady hiring this year has been broadly dispersed throughout most of the country.

FINANCIAL RISK-METLIFE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Major insurer MetLife Inc. says U.S. regulators have labeled it as a potential threat to the financial system, a designation that brings stricter government oversight.

MetLife said Thursday that the Financial Stability Oversight Council has designated the company as "systemically important." As a result, MetLife must increase its cushion of capital against losses, limit its use of borrowed money and submit to inspections by examiners. MetLife will come under the supervision of the Federal Reserve. Its primary regulator now is New York state.

In a statement, New York-based MetLife said it is "disappointed" in the decision and has given the regulators evidence showing it is not systemically important.

MetLife was the third nonbank financial firm to be given the label by the council, a group of top regulators.

ALLY FINANCIAL-GOVERNMENT EXIT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government is selling the last of its shares in Ally Financial Inc., the former financing arm of General Motors that was bailed out during the financial crisis.

Detroit-based Ally says the Treasury Department is selling its remaining 54.9 million shares. That amounts to about an 11 percent stake in the company. At the close of trading Thursday, that would be worth about $1.25 billion.

Ally, formerly called GMAC Inc., received a $17.2 billion bailout that began in 2008. It's now a standalone auto financing company and bank.

Ally says that the government has received $18.3 billion from its investment in the company. Ally went public in April and Treasury sold a chunk of its stake then.

UBER-PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Uber says it's suspending operations in Portland, Oregon, for three months to work out its differences with city officials, less than two weeks after the ride-hailing app's launch was greeted with a lawsuit.

Uber general manager Brooke Steger wrote in a blog post Thursday that Portland is working to update its regulations for private for-hire transportation that would allow Uber to operate.

Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement that a task force will make recommendations by mid-April on permits, pricing systems, insurance, and safety inspections, among other issues.

The city sued Uber three days after its Dec. 5 launch, asking a judge to order the San Francisco-based company to cease operations. The city said Thursday that it's no longer seeking a restraining order.

Uber will continue operating in the Portland suburbs.

PORT LABOR

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- West Coast dockworkers and their employers don't appear to be close to agreeing on a new contract, nearly six months after their old deal expired.

Longshoremen at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle that handle billions of dollars of trade with Asia have continued to work without a contract.

The two sides are meeting in San Francisco.

The Pacific Maritime Association represents oceangoing shipping lines and the operators of cargo terminals at the ports that employ longshoremen. A spokesman for the association says the two sides "remain far apart on several issues."

A spokesman for the dockworkers' union says its negotiators are eagerly awaiting a reply from the association on the union's latest proposal.

UNILEVER-MAYO

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. (AP) -- Hellman's mayonnaise maker Unilever says that it has withdrawn its lawsuit against the maker of "Just Mayo."

Unilever had filed suit against Hampton Creek earlier this year claiming false advertising for Just Mayo, an eggless product.

Unilever argued that "Just Mayo" has no eggs and therefore doesn't meet the definition of mayonnaise. Unilever had said that the word mayo implies that the product is mayonnaise, and that Just Mayo was stealing market share from Hellman's.

Unilever said Thursday that it decided to withdraw the lawsuit so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and regulatory authorities.

Hampton Creek says it marketed its product as "mayo" to meet labeling regulations.

FENWAY FALL

BOSTON (AP) -- A 22-year-old woman who fell two stories down an elevator shaft at Fenway Park and was seriously injured is suing the owner of the Boston Red Sox and an elevator company.

Elisabeth Scotland of Brigantine, New Jersey, sued Wednesday in Superior Court in Boston against Fenway Sports Group and Otis Elevator Co. of Farmington, Connecticut. The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The suit says Scotland fell when a closed elevator door opened when she brushed up against it, and she suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, facial fractures and dental damage.

A Red Sox spokesperson declined to comment on the accident, but said all Fenway Park elevators are safe and the team wishes Scotland well.

Messages were left Thursday for an Otis Elevator spokeswoman.

US-CHINA-TRADE

CHICAGO (AP) -- China is promising to streamline a regulatory process that has held up imports of pharmaceuticals and medical devices from the United States. The country also pledges to enforce its anti-monopoly laws equally among Chinese and foreign companies.

The agreements were announced Thursday at an annual trade meeting in Chicago.

Assistant Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen told reporters that China would work to speed up the review and approval of U.S. products in the pharmaceutical and medical industries and address the current backlog within two to three years.

Zhang said China would also reduce what he called "needless clinical trials."

The U.S. delegation was led by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Pritzker said China's promises on anti-trust laws were especially "significant."

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