A member of the NYPD scuba unit has accused fellow officers of discrimination after he says they referred to him as a transsexual and a "descendant of slaves." What?
According to a civil suit filed on Thursday, former detective Oscar Smith—described as a mixed-race African American—alleges that he was repeatedly abused by his colleagues, who expressed "disbelief that a black man could pass a swim test." They also harassed him for having painted toenails, though the practice is common among avid surfers, which court docs say Smith is. “I’m a surfer," he said back in March. "I’ve got painted toenails, toe rings, stuff like that."
He also said that, despite having served on the unit for seven years, he was routinely denied the opportunity to perform rescue and recovery operations, citing racism and bigotry of his perceived sexuality. "If I'm not going to help the public to the best of my ability, what am I doing here?" he told NY1. "It pretty much just made me feel as if I didn't matter." He retired from the NYPD in May of 2013 after a total of 16 years, doing so without a pension or health benefits.
Smith, who is 48, was the first black diver in the unit's history. He is seeking $1 million in damages.