Fort Lauderdale police chief fired over minority hiring and promotion practices, report says

Originally posted: MAR 05, 22 9:31 PM ET

Updated: MAR 05, 22 10:25 PM ET

By Paradise Afshar and Claudia Dominguez, CNN

(CNN) — The city of Fort Lauderdale has fired its police chief Larry Scirotto, who had served for less than a year, following allegations of discriminatory practices for promotions.

Scirotto was sworn in as police chief in mid-August and the city had hired a law firm in November to investigate complaints of discrimination before he was fired on Thursday, according to a copy of the law firm’s report. lawyers obtained by CNN.

Scirotto told CNN on Saturday that the report that triggered his dismissal from the department was “vague in fact” and largely based on hearsay.

The investigation concluded that during his tenure as police chief, Scirotto implemented a hiring and promotion approach that unfairly focused on minority applicants.

The report states that Scirotto once pointed to a wall in the conference room displaying photos of the department’s staff and said, “That wall is too white” and “I’m going to change that.”

Scirotto told CNN he promoted 15 people from August to November, and of that group, six were ethnic or gender minorities selected for promotions based on merit.

“None of them got promoted because they were in a protected class,” he said. “They were promoted because they were the best candidates.”

Scirotto said he got legal advice and planned to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

“If promoting diversity is the hill I’m going to die on, I’m going to sleep well tonight,” he said. “I will not allow them to tarnish my reputation. I will not allow them to tarnish the work that I have done in the 24 years that I have practiced this profession.

In one example from the report, Scirotto allegedly overlooked a white man with 20 years seniority in the department, and instead narrowed down the choice between two colored men and asked “which one is blacker.”

Asked about his approach to promotions, Scirotto told interviewers he was going to “consider diversity at every opportunity” and had to be “intentional” in his decision-making process.

Scirotto denied asking which candidate was ‘the blackest’ when deciding the promotion, but admitted making comments that the wall was ‘too white’ as he felt it did not reflect not the community, according to the report.

“He said the context of the commentary is built around ‘how do I convince the community that we’re an inclusive and diverse organization if this wall is so white? “, Says the report.

A total of 21 witnesses, including the chief, gave investigators a cohesive account of Scirotto’s hiring and promotion practices, the report said. The investigation also concluded that “almost all witnesses were dissatisfied” with Scirotto’s approach to promotions, and “most believed that Chief Scirotto had made clear his intention to promote based on race, gender or sexual orientation”.

“Some thought it was time for changes to be made, but said that if promotions were based on things like race, it would hurt or even undermine those being promoted,” the report said.

The city ultimately decided to sever ties with Scirotto, who did not have a contract with the city and will not receive compensation, city spokesman Stephen Gollan told CNN.

“Following a thorough and thorough investigation of complaints from employees of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, City Manager Chris Lagerbloom has determined that it is in the city’s best interest to sever the employment of Larry Scirotto “, the city said in a statement dated March 3.

The city’s police department is now under interim chief Luis Alvarez, the city said, and the process to select a new chief is underway.

Talk to CNN Affiliate WFORScirotto said the investigation was “hearsay based” and lacked testimony, transcripts and audio.

Scirotto also provided WFOR with what he said was the context for his comments that the wall was “too white”.

“The bottom row had several white males and one white female. And we speak in conversation about our community and the expectations of a diverse and inclusive organization. And how can I pretend we have that when the whole bottom row is white men? Scirotto told WFOR.

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