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Suit: Bias in police firing

A man said Pa. state police let him go after 18 months over his use of English.

PITTSBURGH - A black man contends that he was fired at the end of his 18-month probationary period as a state trooper over false claims that he did not properly write reports and sometimes used black English when he did, according to a federal lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of William Peake, 29, of Sewickley, who graduated from the police academy in May 2009 and soon after was stationed at the Uniontown barracks, at which, his attorney contends, nearly all troopers are white.

Peake was required to sign a termination letter contending that he was let go for a "lack of solid job knowledge and basic police skills" and other "officer/public safety concerns" not spelled out in that letter in November 2010. According to the lawsuit, the reasons for Peake's firing had "no substantial basis in fact, and are not worthy of belief."

State police spokeswoman Maria Finn said the agency does not comment on litigation. Peake is not suing any police officials in particular, only the state police and the state itself. The lawsuit contends that Peake was one of four black officers out of about 75 in his police academy class and that the state police have a "policy and practice of not hiring a sufficient number of African Americans into trooper positions."

"Plaintiff was judged by different and more harsh standards than other probationary troopers because of his race," the lawsuit contends.

Peake's attorney, James Logan of Pittsburgh, cited a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that found minorities are underrepresented in police departments.