By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Click also learned that same month that Judge Fitzwater had denied his motion to dismiss Holiday's case, in which Click had been personally named as a defendant. The judge ruled that Click did not qualify for immunity as a public official.
In some respects, the judge let the Holiday claim just squeak by, allowing him to use only two of the 21 comparative examples his lawyer had raised in her filings. Holiday could compare, the judge ruled, his treatment to that of Frank Gorka, a sergeant who allegedly had failed to take appropriate action after his subordinate damaged a civilian's car. Gorka was alleged to have lied about the incident to internal affairs investigators. Gorka, who received a three-day suspension, could not be reached for comment.
The judge also allowed Holiday to compare his circumstances to those of Sgt. Curtis Fowler, a white officer whom Click disciplined the same year he fired Holiday. Five allegations against Fowler were sustained -- all of them whoppers. He allegedly placed all the telephone lines in the Traffic Division on hold to avoid calls from a woman he had a romantic relationship with. He allowed a subordinate to conduct private business while on duty. He reported to an overtime assignment in uniform and smelling of alcohol. He made a racially derogatory comment when criticizing an accident report prepared by a black officer. And he was untruthful in an internal affairs interview -- the same allegation Holiday faced. Click simply demoted the white officer. "He had served the department for a long time," says Click about the 25-year veteran. Fowler has left the police force and could not be reached for this story.
But if length of service counts, Holiday was no newcomer either. He was not one of the African-American fresh recruits that Click claims accounts for the disparities. A native of Greenwood, Mississippi, and a former Army captain, Holiday is described by his lawyer as a "true believer in the police department" and "a guy who just wanted his stripes back." But somehow Holiday, who doesn't even maintain a membership in TPOA, touched a raw nerve with Click.
"A bat cave is where bats go to sleep," Click grumbled in his deposition about the officer's joke. "You can't see the graffiti back there anyway when your headlights are turned off."
Holiday has no love for his former chief either. "Click's attitude when it came to blacks -- they didn't get the benefit of the doubt," he says.
Now that he has won his job back and his $76,000 settlement, Holiday has returned to night patrol. He is content with his settlement. He chose police work, he says, because he "wanted to be in the mix of things." So far, however, Holiday hasn't returned to field-training new recruits. "I don't have the feel for it anymore," he says. "That incident ruined it for me." But the new night hours allow him to pick up his two daughters from elementary school, and his settlement has helped him repay the money he took from their college funds while he was off duty.
Holiday says he eagerly answered all of the questions the Justice Department lawyers had about the events surrounding his case when they interviewed him two months ago. He says he wants all officers -- black or white -- who were unfairly disciplined during the former chief's administration to be cleared. "Chief Click was a politician that knows PR, but he could care less about his officers," Holiday says. "I don't think race has anything to do with it. Someone has to be honest and fair."
As far as the idea of a bat cave being known as a place where officers sleep, he says, echoing the sentiments of other cops, "That's a bunch of crock."
By the time Click announced his decision to resign from the department on August 5, the claims of disparate discipline were beginning to gain momentum. Fitzwater had ruled against Click's motion to dismiss Holiday's case, and the officer had received his settlement in June. Justice had announced it was investigating the Bush case, and the federal lawyers were obviously preparing to investigate the department as a whole.
Click insists his decision to depart was unrelated to the litigation and allegations. "I had been a police officer more than 30 years," he says. "I wanted to spend time with my grandchildren."
But Assistant City Manager Charles Daniels, who oversees the police department, views the timing of Click's retirement as a remarkable coincidence. Daniels recalls how surprised he and City Manager Ted Benavides were to learn that Click, who still had events on his calendar for the next year, wanted to quit. "'Do you have a few minutes?'" Daniels remembers Click asking him and Benavides one day in August. "He walked into Ted's office, and he told us he had come to a decision one morning to leave."
By the time Click revealed he was retiring, the Justice Department was just weeks away from informing the city that it would investigate the claims of racial bias. At that point, Click was already making himself scarce. "He wasn't really available. He took quite a bit of time off [prior to his departure]," Daniels says. "I'm sure he is aware of the timing. It's almost a little scary."