Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold has raised eyebrows after she suggested firing Seattle police officers because they are white. While the proposal has its supporters, it has also been criticized for seemingly violating federal law and Supreme Court precedent barring racial discrimination.
The issue stems from the Seattle City Council's pledge to cut the police budget in half, a move that would require the termination of a substantial number of police officers. In a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best warned that such a "completely reckless" proposal would result in the loss of many black and other minority officers.
Herbold then went public with her race-based firing plan:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, working under the stipulations established in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 however, states explicitly:
"It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment."
Critics of Herbold's plan, including constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, point to both federal law and Supreme Court precedent as reasons why it likely constitutes racial discrimination.
"In taking this position, Herbold is opposing one of the best known opinions by Thurgood Marshall. In McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (1976), Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote opinions that called for the broad interpretation of Title VII to protect everyone. In McDonald, two white employees were fired after a theft in the business," Turley said. "The two white employees were held jointly and severally liable with a black employee. However, only the white employees were fired. After they sued under Title VII, Marshall wrote for the majority in denouncing such discrimination against white employees, insisted that "racial discrimination in private employment against whites [must be] on the same terms as racial discrimination against nonwhites."
He also denounced "the illogic in retaining guilty employees of one color while discharging those of another color."
Turley notes that Herbold's plan is even more dubious given that the white officers who would be fired would not be accused of any offense. Their termination would be based on "race alone."