A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police chief was fired after an investigation stated he had asked, “Which one is blacker?” when considering a promotion and also allegedly pointed to photographs on a conference room of the department’s command staff, saying, “That wall is too white,” and “I’m gonna change that.”
Former Fort Lauderdale police chief Larry Scirotto, 48, the first openly gay police chief hired in Fort Lauderdale, was fired last Thursday after bias complaints filed last October with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prompted an investigation. Two police officers said they had been denied promotions based on race, sexual orientation and gender.
City Manager Chris Lagerbloom informed the police department he would freeze all promotions until further notice “to address concerns surrounding the recent police department promotions.” The promotions made by Scirotto would undergo review, he stated, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The attorney representing the two officers stated, “In my opinion enough people have come forward to question the veracity of the promotional process and whether or not procedure was properly followed.”
Scirotto, a former assistant police chief in Pittsburgh, had served in his position since August 2021.
Scirotto defended himself to WSVN, saying, “Those minority groups are now being treated as if they were less than deserving, and that’s not the case, and it never was. … The promotions that I made are of the minority candidates were because they were exceptional candidates and they excelled in every level of the organization.”
“They deserved to be promoted, and by the way, they happened to be minority. It wasn’t because they were minority,” he added.
Referring to his alleged comments about the conference wall photos, he said, “The bottom row, it was consisting of a majority of white men and a white woman, and the statement was, ‘How do I convince our community that we are a diverse community when this is what they will see, and we speak about diversity and inclusion?’”
The investigation stated that when Scirotto was deciding on filling the position of a captain on the force, he allegedly said, “This is between Cecil and Eddie … Which one is blacker?”
City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said Scirotto’s actions “didn’t quite follow the law,” adding, “We strive to be diverse in our organization. We strive to represent the community that we serve. There’s just certain lawful ways to allow that diversity to happen. … In this case, the investigative report indicated we didn’t quite follow the law in how we were working towards those diverse positions.”
The investigative report stated, “Overall, there is a very divisive atmosphere within the department based on the perception the chief is intentionally using race, gender and sexual orientation as attributes necessary for promotions.” It added, “While the goal to diversify is an important and laudable goal it must be accomplished in a legally permissible manner.”
“The department has about 530 officers and 179 civilian employees,” WSVN noted.