Cleveland cops who killed unarmed black suspects claim racial discrimination over suspensions
Timothy Russell car (Ohio Attorney General's office)

Nine Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal 2012 shootings of two unarmed African-Americans are suing the police department claiming racial discrimination.


The eight white officers and one Hispanic officer filed the federal lawsuit against the city on Friday, claiming the department treats non-black officers involved in shootings of blacks more harshly than African-American officers, reports Cleveland.com.

The nine were part of 13 officers involved in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in a hail of bullets following a high speed chase in 2012. The chase, which involved 104 officers, ended when police fired 137 times upon the duo after their car came to a halt in a schoolyard. Russell was shot 23 times, with Williams  hit 24 times.

Police officers claimed the suspects fired upon them, but no gun was found on them or in their vehicle.

The city of Cleveland recently settled with the families of the pair for $3 million.

The lawsuit by the police officers alleges they were allowed back on regular duty and then placed back on restricted duty in a move they argue was "politically expedient."

The officers who fired their weapons were placed on three days of administrative leave and then a period of restricted duty, which is typically 45 days for officer-involved shootings. In the suit the police officers allege the department violated protocol by ordering the officers back to restricted duty after being allowed to return to the streets in June and July 2013.

The suit claims the punishment has damaged the officers' professional reputations and caused "emotional distress and mental anguish," as well as depriving them of overtime and promotions, while relegating them to "boring, menial tasks."

"A serious dichotomy exists as a result of the defendants' longstanding practices and procedures which place onerous burdens on non-African American officers, including the plaintiffs, because of their race and the race of persons who are the subjects of the legitimate use of deadly force," reads the suit.

The lawsuit comes at a bad time for the Cleveland police department in the wake of shooting death of Tamir Rice by a white police officer last week

The 12-year-old African-American boy was shot while holding a toy gun in a playground.