Earlier this year, as Officer Russell Ellis neared the end of his late shift at the University of Washington’s campus police department, one of his superiors offered him an energy drink. The sergeant was laughing, Mr. Ellis said, noting that the beverage was flavored like watermelon.
“I thought all you guys like watermelon and Popeyes chicken,” the senior officer said, according to Mr. Ellis, who is Black. A second Black officer described a nearly identical encounter with the same sergeant two years earlier.
Mr. Ellis, 49, said the exchange left him stewing privately with anger and humiliation. But he said it was far from the first time he had faced racial disparagement or discrimination during his years at the university, a sprawling lakeside campus in Seattle that touts diversity goals to the public, shares antiracism resources with the student body and shapes the ideals of one of the nation’s most progressive — and one of the whitest — big cities.
All five Black rank-and-file officers in the university police department filed multi-million-dollar damage claims this week, describing a culture of entrenched racism that has included racial slurs, vicious comments about Black people and open hostility directed at them and at members of the public.
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