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Transferred New York Officers Win Ruling

May 23, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ It’s been almost six years since Margo McKenzie was transferred to another police precinct because of her race after Abner Louima was tortured in a Brooklyn police station.

McKenzie, who sued the city along with 23 other black and Hispanic officers and sergeants who were transferred, said Friday she was glad the case was finally over. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a $1.2 million jury verdict in their favor.

McKenzie was transferred into the 70th Precinct, where Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was sodomized with a broken broomstick on Aug. 9, 1997.

``It was disappointing to know that the police department, especially in this age, would transfer people based on race,″ said McKenzie, who has since been promoted to sergeant and moved out of the precinct. ``I feel I can police in any area. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in an African-American area.″

The city argued it was trying to respond to community concerns with the transfers of the 22 officers and two sergeants. In trying to convince the Supreme Court to take up its appeal, it argued there was insufficient evidence that employees suffered emotional distress due to their job changes.

``This move came in response to a horrific situation. The police commissioner believed that these transfers were critical to maintain order and respond to the crisis at hand,″ city appeal attorney Julian Kalkstein said.

Louima suffered a ruptured bladder and colon and spent two months in the hospital. Former officer Justin Volpe, who is white, pleaded guilty in the attack and is serving a 30-year sentence.

The attack sparked street protests and a federal investigation of allegations that wayward officers were shielded by a ``blue wall of silence.″

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