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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cop Says He Was Fired for Being Jewish

DETROIT (CN) - Police in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale fired an officer because he's Jewish, not because he killed a man in the line of duty, the man claims in court.

Lowell Phillips sued the City of Ferndale, its Police Department and Chief of Police Timothy Collins, in Oakland County Court.

Ferndale, pop. 31,000, is a northern suburb of Detroit. It is 82 percent white and its income level is near the state average, according to citydata.com.

Phillips, 47, who was hired in 2005, was the city's only Jewish officer until he was fired in 2011, he says in the 8-page lawsuit.

He claims he was barraged with anti-Semitic harassment during his days on the force.

"Upon discovering plaintiff's religious and race background as Jewish, fellow officers, including command and supervisory personnel, all agents and employees of defendant City of Ferndale and Ferndale Police Department, began systematically harassing and discriminating against plaintiff in the following respects which are listed as illustration, and not as an exhaustive list:

"Plaintiff was constantly referred to as 'AJ' (Angry Jew) during his employment with defendants;

"Plaintiff was constantly told that 'the Jews killed Jesus';

"Plaintiff was told he should not attempt to get Jewish holidays off because it was not a 'real religion';

"When plaintiff would make a mistake he was told 'I thought Jews were supposed to be smart.'

"Agents and employees of defendant would also express amusement at how Jews could not stay out of the 'gas chambers.'

"Plaintiff was subjected to numerous remarks concerning the size of his penis as it related to his being Jewish;

"Flyers were printed and posted at the police station derogatorily representing plaintiff as 'Super Jew - saving change, one pocket at a time' and depicting a stereotypically Jewish male in place of the picture of the shark on the movie poster 'Jaws' and instead titling it 'Jews.'"

In addition to the harassment and religious discrimination, Phillips claims he was passed over for commendations and disciplined for conduct that was overlooked in other officers.

"In short, plaintiff was being held to a different standard and asked to play by a different set of rules than his fellow officers and subjected to less favorite treatment than his non-Jewish peers," he says.

Phillips was involved in a high speed chase in June 2010. When he got out of his car to arrest the suspect, the man reversed the car toward him, forcing him to fire and kill the man in self-defense, Phillips says in the complaint.

Phillips says he "behaved exactly as he was trained and used reasonable force ... and all investigations by defendant personnel exonerated plaintiff from any wrongdoing or use of excessive force."

Nonetheless, he says he was fired in January 2011.

He claims the defendants used the shooting as a pretext for firing him because he is Jewish.

"Plaintiff was terminated a result of his race, religion, and in retaliation for complaining about harassment and discrimination based on his race and religion," Phillips says.

Phillips wants his job back, and seeks punitive damages for religious discrimination and retaliation.

He is represented by S. Jay Ahmad, of Birmingham, Mich.

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