A Southampton Village police officer and member of the force for over a decade is threatening to sue Southampton Village and its police department over claims he was denied a promised promotion because he is black.
Kareem Proctor, 40, who was hired by the village in September 2008, filed a notice of claim July 18 seeking unspecified damages for mental anguish, pain, and suffering, damages to name and reputation, and monetary damages for what he says are the malicious conduct, violation of civil rights, and discriminatory treatment of the Southampton Village Police Department.
“Within the past two years I have been discriminated against based on my race and color,” said Proctor in his five-page claim filed with Hempstead attorney Julissa Proaño. “I have not received any evaluations nor do I have a negative employment history within the department.”
The Flanders resident, who is one of three African Americans in a department of over 30, joined the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office East End Drug Task Force — made up of law enforcement officers and detectives from East End law enforcement agencies — September 9, 2015 and was assured by Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings that he would be promoted to detective after 18 months on that assignment.
New York State Civil Service Law says anyone serving in a detective or investigator position for at least 18 months “shall receive a permanent appointment to a detective or investigator position.”
But the officer says he was removed from the task force one day prior to automatically being promoted.
“Of all seven police officers that were on the task force since I have been employed . . . I was the only officer that was not promoted to a higher rank,” Proctor said. “The other officers were all Caucasian.”
He also said two other white officers, a man and a woman, were promoted to detective in the past two years despite performance issues. Proctor claims both also made fewer arrests than he did as a police officer.
The veteran said he believed he would receive the promotion, and was congratulated and told by Detective Sergeant Herman Lamison on his first day of Basic Criminal Investigation school in March of 2017 that he would be made detective. This was just days before he was removed from the task force. Proctor alleged in the notice that Lamison said he’d received this information from Cummings in a supervisors meeting.
Lamison, who is black, settled a federal discrimination lawsuit against the village in 2007 alleging he had been passed over for a promotion because of his race, and in part because a village trustee accused him of selling drugs. Lamison was not promoted to detective sergeant until after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2005 and held a news conference with the support of the NAACP, according to the suit, which was settled for $25,000.
“While I firmly believe the Southampton Village Police Department and the Village of Southampton is engaging in discriminatory actions against me by refusing to give me a promotion as a consequence of my race and color, I have still continued to act as a professional and perform my tasks with due diligence and dedication,” Proctor said. “The department’s failure to promote me has caused me financial loss, embarrassment, and humiliation.”
Southampton Village Administrator Russell Kratoville said the village does not comment on pending legal issues, but did confirm Proctor was paid $153,050 in 2018, including overtime. In June, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association received a two-percent increase on base wage, so the administrator is unsure of Proctor’s anticipated salary for this year.
“As an integral and active member of the department, it is difficult to project Officer Proctor’s 2019 income considering the numerous additional assignments and responsibilities within the department,” Kratoville said.
He also sent out a notice on Friday, August 16 about a Tuesday, August 20 Southampton Village Board of Trustees special executive session meeting “for the purpose of a contractual personnel hearing,” the results of which were not available by press time.
Southampton Village’s newly-sworn in mayor, Jesse Warren, said Friday that prior administration was made aware of the situation. He too said he cannot comment on pending or existing litigation. Proctor and Cummings did not respond to additional requests for comment.
On top of the unspecified damages, Proctor is asking for an investigation into the actions of department officials and a formal apology for constitutional violations and discriminatory treatment.