GREENSBORO — Thirty-nine black police officers sued the city of Greensboro and two former police leaders Friday for breach of contract and racial discrimination, according to court documents.
The officers claim former Police Chief David Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady discriminated against them by directing subordinate officers to include their pictures in photo lineups and pursuing unsubstantiated charges against them because of their race, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Guilford County District Court shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
The same police officers filed U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaints against the city in 2006.
The breach-of-contract claim stems from a failed attempt to negotiate a monetary settlement of those complaints with the City Council.
The lawsuit claims damages of more than $10,000 and comes before the statute of limitations for filing was due to expire.
"There was a statute-of-limitations issue," said the officers' attorney Ken Free. "It's time to move forward."
City attorney Terry Wood had not yet read the lawsuit, but said the city would respond to the claim in due course. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of story.)
Brady's attorney, Seth Cohen, said his client has "done absolutely nothing wrong."
"He served the city for many, many years," Cohen said. "And this lawsuit, like many others, is frivolous."
Wray's attorney, Ken Keller, declined to comment Friday night because he had not seen the lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes one week after Wray filed his own discrimination suit, claiming the city and City Manager Mitchell Johnson discriminated against him because he is white.
Wray and Brady left the city three years ago, amid allegations that a special investigation unit in the police department had targeted its own black officers for investigations.
The 39 officers believe their photos were included in at least one version of a lineup book or other visual aids "for the purpose of framing, embarrassing, and wrongfully charging black officers with crimes, offenses and violations of both law and police policies," the officers' lawsuit alleges.
The city and Wray have said that at least one lineup, a " black book " containing photos of 19 officers that was stored in Brady's trunk, was used to investigate an alleged sexual assault.
The lawsuit also claims the city breached its own confidentiality agreement by releasing information about the EEOC complaint negotiations.
Information about the City Council's $750,000 confidential settlement offer to the officers and the officers' names were published in The Rhinoceros Times in November.
After the publication, council members were pressed by residents not to pay the settlement, and council members subsequently withdrew the offer.
Wood said the city did not release the information about the officers for retaliatory reasons and did not seek the publication, Wood wrote in a Dec. 8 letter to the officers' attorneys.
Wood said the city did not breach the confidentiality agreement and would "vigorously" defend any breach-of-contract claim.
The officers in the suit include force veterans - like Wray's former executive officer Lt. Brian James and Assistant Chief Ronald Rogers - as well as three officers who were investigated for their involvement in an alleged 2007 assault, John O. LeGrand, Officer Calvin Stevens and Sgt. Allen Wallace. None was charged with a crime in the incident.
Officers Norman Rankin and Ernest Cuthbertson are also among the plantiffs.
Two former special intelligence unit officers, Scott E. Sanders and William "Tom" Fox, are facing criminal charges for allegedly conspiring to deceive other officers about Rankin and Cuthbertson.
The intent was to frustrate an investigation Rankin and Cuthbertson were pursuing by keeping them away from an important confidential informant, according to the indictments in the case.