The first black man ever to be hired as a police officer in a small northwestern town had his SUV sprayed with the N-word over a planned racial discrimination case against town authorities.
Gerry Pickens, 28, was fired by the chief of police in Orting, Washington, after just under a year on the town’s police force – an act he claims is motivated by racism.
Pickens was more used to drugs busts and violent robberies at his previous posting in Atlanta, Georgia – but took a pay cut and moved to quiet Orting, which has just 11 police officers.
However, before his probation year was out, Pickens said he had become the butt of racist jokes from residents and his fellow cops – and was eventually fired for reasons he says are down to the color of his skin.
The situation came to a head earlier this year, when he woke to find his car daubed with racist graffiti, seemingly prompted by fears he would sue over his dismissal.
The vehicle, a Ford Explorer, was filmed by local news station KIRO in the wake of the racist act.
On one side, ‘n****r’ had been sprayed in huge letters. The other side read: ‘Sue cheif [sic] and pay’.
He later told the King5 TV station: ‘I’m in fear for my life because I don’t know who in Orting is out to get me’.
The incident, at the end of January this year, came to light again after the Washington Post published a long account of Pickens’ time in Orting, detailing some of what he sees as racist treatment.
He told reporter Eli Saslow that shortly after he started a member of the public played a practical joke on him by calling 911 to report a ‘black juvenile’ driving a police car after they saw Pickens on patrol.
Officers turned it into a joke, continuing to refer to him as the ‘black juvenile’. He was also reportedly called a ‘token black guy’ by colleagues, and feels his vacation requests were handled differently.
He also said he was treated unfairly over a complaint that he used a local gym without paying. The allegation – which, according to the News Tribune, was later dropped, saw him suspended from duty.
Around the same time, Pickens said, a white officer was subject to an excessive force complaint, but was allowed to keep policing the whole time.
A letter sent to Orting police by Pickens’s attorney also said that after he left the force, the chief of police, Bill Drake, ‘slandered’ his former employee when asked for references by other forces.
It claims he ‘prevented him from future employment as a police officer.’
Drake said he couldn’t comment on that allegation due to the impeding legal case.
However, the initial letter confirming that Pickens would be fired cited ‘unsatisfactory performance’.
Other reasons suggested include filing incomplete reports, taking too long responding to an important traffic stop, going home while on duty and not helping an officer in a ‘physical altercation’.
According to the Post, Pickens has now filed a suit demanding $5million from Orting – a figure which is more than double the town’s annual budget and would equal a payout of around $625 from every single resident.
The vandalism of Pickens’ car, which is being investigated by a different force to avoid conflicts of interest with Orting Police, remains unsolved.
DailyMail.com has contacted Pickens and Orting Police for comment.
Source: Daily Mail