A Southampton Village police officer has filed a $30 million federal lawsuit against the village and its police department, alleging he faced discrimination and was denied promotions because he is Black.
Kareem Proctor, a 13-year veteran of the department, sought promotions but said he was passed over for “Caucasian persons with less qualifications,” according to the lawsuit. The complaint, filed Oct. 18 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, says Proctor suffered civil rights violations, lost wages, embarrassment and other negative impacts due to the discrimination.
“This is obviously creating pressure on a very fine police officer,” said Proctor’s Hempstead-based attorney, Frederick Brewington. “His differential treatment, which was race based, is something that Southampton needs to address and address promptly.”
The lawsuit notes Proctor, 42, of Flanders, is one of three Black employees in a department of more than 30 people. It names the village, police department, former police chief Thomas Cummings and unnamed officers as defendants and says the department’s discrimination has been systemic. It also seeks a declaratory statement that the village violated Proctor’s rights and other demands.
Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren declined to comment Monday on the litigation. Acting Southampton Village Police Chief Suzanne Hurteau did not respond to a request for comment, and Cummings could not be reached.
Proctor joined the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s East End Drug Task Force on Sept. 9, 2015, and was promised by Cummings, then the police chief, that he would be promoted to detective after 18 months on that assignment, the lawsuit states. Under New York State Civil Service Law, anyone serving in a detective or investigator position for at least 18 months “shall receive a permanent appointment to a detective or investigator position.”
On March 9, 2017, the 18-month anniversary of Proctor’s start on the task force, he said he was removed from assignment, one day before the automatic promotion would have been guaranteed. Proctor was told by Cummings that he was removed a day early because the chief “sought out but did not find anyone to replace Plaintiff for what would have been his last day on the task force,” according to the lawsuit.
Proctor filed a notice of claim in 2019 with the state Human Rights Division. The division issued a final investigation report and basis of determination this past June stating that probable cause exists to believe the department engaged in unlawful discrimination.
Cummings said during a conference with the division that he was asked to remove Proctor from the task force after learning he had family members who used and sold drugs and were the subjects of an investigation. Proctor said at the time that he had already disclosed his family’s activity to the village.
Cummings said he intended to appoint Proctor to detective, but was told the village didn’t have money for the position.
The lawsuit says that of the seven officers to be assigned to the task force since Proctor joined the department, he was the only one denied a promotion. He was also the only officer who is not white.