A Florida police chief has been given the boot after an investigation found he engaged in discriminatory promotion practices, and remarked “That wall is too white” when looking at pictures of the department’s command staff.
Larry Scirotto — who took over the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in August — was fired by the city manager on Thursday, according to a press release. The report followed several discrimination complaints that alleged Scirotto, 48, made hiring and promotion decisions with an illegal race-based approach.
Scirotto, a former assistant chief in Pittsburgh, became the first openly gay chief hired in Fort Lauderdale last year. He is of mixed race.
A 12-page investigation into the bias complaints concluded that Scirotto created a “divisive atmosphere” in the department, and that he once pointed to a conference room wall of photos of the department’s command staff and declared, “That wall is too white,” and “I’m gonna change that,” according to CNN.
In another incident, the investigation found that Scirotto said “Which one is blacker?” when considering a promotion — an incident the former police chief denies took place.
The report quoted Scirotto, who headed the police department for just six months, as saying he intended to “consider diversity at every opportunity.”
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“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,” the reads the report. “While the goal to diversify is an important and laudable goal it must be accomplished in a legally permissible manner.”
On Saturday, Scirotto told CNN he promoted 15 people from August to November, just six were ethnic or gender minorities, and said the report was “vague on the facts.”
In an interview with Fox affiliate 7News, Scirotto defended himself, insisting the non-white candidates “deserved to be promoted.”
“Those minority groups are now being treated as if they were less than deserving, and that’s not the case, and it never was,” he told the TV station.
“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,” he reportedly added. “They deserved to be promoted, and by the way, they happened to be minority. It wasn’t because they were minority.”
Of the “Which one is blacker” remark, Scirotto told the outlet he never said that.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Larry Scirotto was fired over his departmental promotion policies. Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
But on Friday, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said the report revealed the diversity promotion was conducted illegally.
“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,” he said, according to 7News, “and in this case, the investigative report indicated we didn’t quite follow the law in how we were working towards those diverse positions.”
The firing came after in October two Fort Lauderdale cops alleged they had been passed over for promotions based on race, sexual orientation and gender, according to the Sun Sentinel. In response, Lagerbloom reportedly put a halt to promotion in order to “address concerns surrounding the recent police department promotions.”