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Former captains sue Police Chief Harteau for age discrimination, retaliation

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A lawsuit filed by five former captains with the Minneapolis Police Department claims Police Chief Janeé Harteau discriminated against them based on age, pushing them toward retirement with demotions and reassigning them to lesser positions.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which you can read in full here, range in age from 48 to 60 years old, and at one point were all captains with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Here is a list of all five plaintiffs, along with a brief summary of their complaint, according to the lawsuit.

Constance Leaf, 53

Joined June 1985 as a patrol officer. Promoted to captain in 2008, placed in command of Forensic Division and Crime Lab. Was demoted to lieutenant and assigned to a night shift in February of 2013.

Lawrence Doyle, 51

Joined in 1987, after retiring from U.S. Army Reserves. In November of 2008, became the first African-American in the history of the department to reach that position. Was demoted in January of 2013 to First Precinct Property Crimes Unit, with three sergeants reporting to him. He used to manage 40-120 employees.

Michael Martin, 48

Joined in 1991. Was Inspector Commander in the Fourth Precinct at the time of his demotion. He was the only one on the force to earn Police-Community Relation's Council's Community Hero Award, and MetLife COmmunity-Police Partnership Award. He also coordinated agencies following 35W bridge collapse response. He was told in December of 2012 he'd be demoted down to captain, then in February was demoted to lieutenant, and his training and speaking opportunities were restricted.

Sally Weddel, 60

Joined in 1988. She was promoted to Captain in 2008, and headed two divisions. Harteau told Weddel she's be up for a Deputy Chief position, and in non-written reviews offered lots of praise. But when Harteau took over, she told Weddel she'd be considered for a Commander position. Weddel asked Harteau if it was because of age, and Harteau responded, "A little." She retured with her rank rather than face a demotion and pay cut.

Isaac DeLugo, 58

Joined in 1983. He eventually oversaw the Juvenile Division, working there for five years until learning in December of 2012 the rank of captain was to be eliminated. He was told any option to continue working with the department would mean a demotion and lower pay. Concerned about how a demotion would look on his resume, he retired in January with his rank intact.

Harteau took office Dec. 4, 2012, and shortly afterward said she would be eliminating the rank of captain.

According to the Star Tribune, a union official said the move had been approved by Police Officers Federation while Harteau's predecessor still held that position. As part of the deal, those who had been captain were supposed to receive the same pay until they retired or left the department, the paper reports.

The lawsuit says what actually happened was much different.

Police spokespersons told MPR and the Star Tribune they could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.

All five of the officers had long careers of more than two decades with the department, and are described in the suit as having had a positive impact while reigning over their jurisdiction.

For example, the suit says Lawrence Doyle significantly increased the number of non-white recruits in the force, and helped strengthen the community recruitment program; and Constance Leaf, who in 2008 was put in charge of the Forensic Division and Crime Lab, helped the lab become the first in the U.S. to receive ASCLD/Lab International Accreditation. Only 270 crime labs in world have gotten that distinction.

But those two and the three others – Michael Martin, Sally Wedel and Isaac DeLugo – say that despite their work, they were pushed out of their positions as Harteau sought to add youth to the department.

According to the lawsuit:

Harteau announced her intention to eliminate the rank of captain shortly after taking office on Dec. 4, 2012. The chief and the union both suggested the five plaintiffs' rank and pay would be grandfathered in, and they needn't worry, but official documentation supporting that was never provided.

The new police chief then began talking about the force's age while in the office, calling it "old" and saying they needed some "young blood." At one meeting, she demanded the eldest employees all raise their hands, making those who had to do so feel humiliated.

In private meetings, the plaintiffs say Harteau frequently asked them when they were planning on retiring.

Shortly after assuming her position, Harteau also said she was creating a new rank supervisory of "Commander." The commanders would be appointed, rather than hired through an open process the way a captain was. The spot was a demotion, but is considered more prestigious than a rank of lieutenant. Early in the process, Harteau suggested to some of the plaintiffs they would be in line for a commander position.

In February of 2013, Harteau chose five new commanders – all of them described in the complaint as "less qualified, and ... for the most part younger" than the captains, all of whom missed out.

Two of the plaintiffs retired with their rank of captain intact. Three others were demoted in February of 2013. One was given the night shift, traditionally given to the newest employees, despite specifically asking not to be transferred there, the suit says. The others were given much less power than before, and said they suddenly found themselves managing a small group of people rather than a large contingent.

The suit says Harteau's actions violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act and were discriminatory based on age. The plaintiffs are seeking financial damages for lost wages, loss of opportunities, damage to reputation, and emotional stress.

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