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Sgt. David Bonenberger Awarded $620,000 for "Reverse Discrimination" by St. Louis Police

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Danny Wicentowski
Sgt. David Bonenberger.
Sgt. David Bonenberger's lawsuit against the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for racial discrimination ended in victory yesterday, when a federal jury agreed that Bonenberger, who is white, was unfairly passed over for a position in favor of another candidate simply because she was black.

"I wanted to give the police department an opportunity to make it right," Bonenberger said at a press conference today at his lawyer's office. "I had no choice. I couldn't roll over and let it go. I had to stand up for myself and everyone else who was employed by the police department."

The twenty-year veteran of the force was awarded $620,000 by the jury roughly three years after Bonenberger first sent in an application to become the assistant director of the police academy in September, 2010. The civil suit claimed that Bonenberger's superiors told him they had already decided to give the job to an African American female sergeant named Angela Taylor.

See also: ACLU Sues St. Louis County Police Department Over Sunshine Law in Racial Profiling Case

In one instance, Bonenberger described how Lt. Michael Muxo approached him at the scene of an unrelated investigation and, pulling him to a nearby alley, told him that he had instructions from Col. Reggie Harris, who is African American, to "bring color down to the Academy," and that if Bonenberger didn't make a fuss, he could expect to still land a good position in the future.

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Danny Wicentowski
St. Bonenberger said he fears he or his wife, also a police officer, could suffer retaliation from the SLMPD because of his lawsuit's success.

At the press conference, Bonenberger said that the assistant director position would have been a "dream job," and that he felt forced to act after realizing what had been done to him.

"The St. Louis Police Department has been my life for nearly twenty years, and I've got no plans for leaving," said Bonenberger, who is also the president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. "It is a fine police department, and I hope the results from this will make it better."

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Danny Wicentowski
Bonenberger's lawyer Lynette Petruska, of Pleban & Petruska, called the conduct of the SLMPD "outrageous."

Proving racial discrimination in hiring can be a murky proposition, and cases can devolve into a he-said-she-said dance of trying to use indirect evidence to prove discrimination. However, two e-mails may have made this case different.

One was an e-mail sent by Bonenberger to another party, in which the sergeant described how Muxo had told him not to apply for the position. The second e-mail was sent by Bonenberg to Muxo himself, informing the lieutenant that he had applied even though Bonenberger knew the job was pre-chosen.

Muxo never responded to the second e-mail, a mistake that proved particularly damning in front of the jury, explained Lynette Petruska, Bonenberger's lawyer.

"He never said, 'What are you talking about? We haven't picked anybody yet!'" Petruska said. "There are two e-mails that show that [Lt. Muxo] knew that position was filled and that the fix was in." By adding in conversations between Muxo and another officer, Petruska said they were able show concrete evidence of discrimination to the jury.

"Muxo is an idiot," Petruska added. "He wasn't being shy about this. Most people aren't stupid enough to admit that they're illegally discriminating. We had direct evidence."

The police department released a statement to Daily RFT, saying:

The Board of Police Commissioners will discuss the lawsuit and make recommendations regarding the next course of action. The Department is not at liberty to discuss pending litigation and comment on personnel matters.

Here's a copy of the original suit.

Bonenberger v. SLMPD


Send feedback and tips to the author at danny.wicentowski@riverfronttimes.com

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

Like everyone else does, argue a case using evidence to a jury of your peers.

Dustin Willbrand
Dustin Willbrand

Andee---was just going to make the same comment. Discrimination is discrimination and racism is racism.

Tessa Smith
Tessa Smith

ALL applicants should be hired based on being the best and most suited for the job which they are applying for. Race should not bare ANY reason for hiring. The bridges and construction jobs are ridiculous with their extreme racial accountabilities. HIRE WHOM IS BEST FOR THE JOB/POSITION, NOT WHOS SKIN COLOR IS NEEDED TO MAKE SKIN COLOR EQUAL ACCURACY?

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

this is STL...of course it's racism...we all know the odds are now against White people...we ARE the new minority & need to fight for our rights...get use to it...

Laura Tomerlin
Laura Tomerlin

Lmfao. Reverse discrimination!!!! Is it only black people who are discriminated against!! I guess white people can't be discriminated against. If It's discrimination then call it for what it is!!!

Wayne Cardosi
Wayne Cardosi

I'm tired of the race thing. Unfair to the business owner to be required to hire a certain amount of any race. Let them hire who they want. To me, hire the best qualified for the position. Promote the best qualified for the position.

Greg Whitsell
Greg Whitsell

Agreed with Andee. Oh, and nice air quotes, RFT intern who wrote the caption.

Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano
Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano

i wish ppl would stop addign the word "reverse" with racism and discrimination. there is no "reverse" it is what it is, whether it's against black, white, yellow, or brown. j/s.

dasracisman
dasracisman

C'mon David your screwing up the accepted agenda.  Didn't someone tell you that only whites can be racist?  I'm sure Muxo must've had a conversation with you in that alley about your white "privilege" right?  Considering your "privilege" you should've just surrendered that job to your black (and probably less qualified) counterpart and signed up for some more reverse racism...oh wait...that's right...reverse racism doesn't exist!

While you're at it check out this great article in Time Magazine about the baseball player killed in Oklahoma.  And remind yourself while reading it...there's no such thing as reverse racism:-)

http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/22/viewpoint-dont-ignore-race-in-christopher-lanes-murder/

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

@laxx1559 Yeah, Amen to that.  Wish I could have brought the same charges against Anheuser-Busch in 1976 when they pulled the exact same crap with me.  Recommended by middle mgmt. for a line-foreman's job and told by the hiring manager I was the wrong sex (male) and the wrong color (white).   This "quota" crap just sucks. !! 

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