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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 January 30, 2015 18:13 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014 as a big burst in consumer spending was offset by weakness in other areas.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December period, down from sizzling gains of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Consumers did their part in the fourth quarter, pushing up spending by fastest rate in nearly nine years. But businesses investment, trade and government spending weakened.

For the year, the economy grew at a moderate rate of 2.4 percent. But economists believe 2015 could be a breakout year for growth, with consumer spending boosted by strong employment gains and falling gas prices. Many expect growth above 3 percent this year.

EMPLOYMENT COST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace in six years last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. That's the biggest gain since 2008. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent.

Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace.

The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health.

US-CONSUMER-SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month.

Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years.

The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that strong job growth and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

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DALLAS (AP) -- Pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have approved a single labor contract. That's a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers, which merged in December 2013.

The multiyear deal gives pilots a 23 percent pay raise retroactive to Dec. 2.

The pilots' union said Friday that the contract was approved 66 percent to 34 percent, with 95 percent of eligible pilots casting a vote.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A jury of six men and six women is continuing deliberations in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated all day Thursday without reaching a verdict. They returned to a federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to keep working.

The jurors must decide whether Toyota's design of the 1996 Camry had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous. If they find there was a defect, they must decide if it directly caused injuries to those hurt or killed when Koua Fong Lee crashed into another car in 2006.

Lee spent 2 1/2 years in prison before being released after reports suggested some Toyota cars had sudden acceleration problems.

GERMANY-BMW-SECURITY FLAW

BERLIN (AP) -- German automaker BMW says it has fixed a security flaw that made 2.2 million of its vehicles vulnerable to break-ins.

The company says the problem affected BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce models equipped with its ConnectedDrive technology, which allows drivers to access certain car functions with a smartphone.

German automobile club ADAC, which discovered the flaw last summer, says hackers could have used a fake cellphone base station to intercept network traffic from the car and lower the windows or open the doors. There are no reports such a break-in ever took place.

BMW spokeswoman Silke Brigl said Friday that hackers wouldn't have been able to start or stop the engine.

Brigl said the problem has been fixed with an automatic update and customers don't need to take any action.

POM JUICE-RULING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court says many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The conclusion was reached by the Federal Trade Commission.

The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products.

POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products.

RUSSIA-FINANCES

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says his country's economic crisis is forcing athletes to scale back their training plans for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

Training camps abroad can be crucial in acclimatizing athletes for Rio de Janeiro's tropical conditions, but they are rapidly becoming unaffordable after the ruble lost almost half of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months.

Nagornykh tells Russian agency R-Sport that, with the ruble's value low and the Sports Ministry's budget facing cuts, athletes should stay in Russia rather than train abroad "in order to spend less of the currency reserves."

Officials will select priority sports and athletes for scarce funding, Nagornykh said.

The measures affect athletes for the Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics, he added.

OHIO STATE-ROYALTIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' national championship victory.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes.

Retailers say the team's special story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries.

Licensing officials also attribute increased sales to the fact Ohio State hadn't won a championship since 2002.

More than half of each dollar that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program also receive portions of the revenue.

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