Is 68 Too Old To Be A Police Officer?
Acting as his own legal counsel, Fisher, now 68, filed a lawsuit accusing the WSPD of age discrimination in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Fisher is suing for back wages and $200,000 for emotional pain and suffering, reports the Winston-Salem Journal.
In the lawsuit -- which is handwritten and four pages long -- Fisher also names members of the WSPD, including Sgt. Tony Perkins. In his complaint, Fisher claims that Perkins "constantly and continuously belittled" his experience and "blocked his employment with the police department by moving younger and less qualified applicants" ahead of him. Fisher's case rests largely on his belief that the other applicants were less qualified. "More than half of the accepted applicants had no police experience at all," Fisher wrote in his complaint. "This discrimination against me was deliberate and intentional ... due to my age."
Fisher also contends that Scott Cunningham, chief of the WSPD, told him via e-mail that he "had hurt [his] chances of being hired by threatening to sue." Fisher also argues that the department doesn't adequately train its officers to be sensitive to age discrimination.
Fisher says that he has two decades' experience with law enforcement, having worked for both the patrol division and SWAT team of the Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office, among other police agencies. In total, Fisher says, he has logged 20,000 hours of patrol duty. Fisher also says that he is physically fit and has practiced tae kwon do and karate throughout his life. Currently a technician at a mental health hospital, Fisher says that he remains active. "It can get physical, and I have to maintain order."
The Winston Salem Police Department did not respond to requests for comment. But in a previous statement, City Attorney Angela Carmon and Assistant City Attorney Anthony Baker said the lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent, putting the WSPD in "the position of having to accept any applicant over 40 or face the cost of having to defend, at least until summary judgment, a federal age discrimination lawsuit."
Before filing his complaint, Fisher first turned to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which told him that there was "reasonable cause" to believe there was a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. However Fisher's lawsuit turns out, his story is certainly emblematic of the times. CNNMoney says that all workers over the age of 50 are simply the "new unemployables" in this country. Indeed, workers in their 50s are about 20 percent less likely than workers aged 25 to 34 to become re-employed, according to an Urban Institute study published last year.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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