Officer files discrimination charges in Freeport

August 12, 2010 3:50:39 PM PDT
Charges of discrimination have been filed by a high ranking veteran white police officer on Long Island.

She says she was demoted and replaced by a less experienced male Hispanic as deputy chief.

The now-lieutenant works for the Freeport Police Department.

On his campaign's Facebook page, Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick promised to change Freeport.

Debbie Zagaja says he kept that promise in a way she never imagined.

"I want to see justice. I don't want to see this continue," Zagaja said.

As a lieutenant, she's the highest ranking woman in the village's 92-member police department.

But, before Hardwick's election in 2009, she was deputy chief.

She claims she was demoted solely because of the color of her skin.

"It's not fair, it's not just, it's not right, and I think there should be consequences to these actions," Zagaja said.

Zagaja has filed suit in Federal Court, claiming as soon as Hardwick was elected, he launched a systematic campaign to replace white supervisors throughout village government.

The Tax Assessor, Superintendent of Public Works, Superintendent of Buildings, were all replaced, she claims by less experienced minority candidates.

Zagaja does have the support of the police union, and the rank and file cops she supervises as a lieutenant.

We wanted to give the mayor a chance to respond, but at the locked door to his office, an assistant handed out a three line statement from the village attorney, claiming only race and gender are not factors in personnel matters.

"These are very serious allegations does no one want to address them?" Eyewitness News asked.

Mayor Hardwick was clearly avoiding the cameras.

Eyewitness News finally reached him on his cell phone.

He called reporter Josh Einiger, "Buddy" and then said he could not make a statement.