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Richmond Police Race Discrimination Trial Begins

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Richmond Police Cruiser, patrol car

A Richmond Police patrol car. (CBS)

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MARTINEZ (CBS SF) – A racially-charged civil discrimination trial involving several high-ranking Richmond police officers began with opening statements Tuesday in Martinez.

The lawsuit against Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus and his former deputy chief Lori Ritter alleges racial discrimination and harassment going back five years. Seven officers filed suit against the pair. The claims involve police promotions, derogatory racist jokes and harassment.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

Attorney Stephen Jaffe, who is representing six of the seven plaintiffs, told jurors “this is a trial about racial discrimination and racial hatred.”

Jaffe said that things came to a head during a retreat in Napa in 2006 when some racially-derogatory comments were allegedly made by Chief Magnus.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Art Hartinger told jurors “you heard this case was about racial hatred and discrimination but that’s simply not true.”

Hartinger said that the plaintiffs did not like Chief Magnus from the very start because he’s white and an outsider.

All seven plaintiffs are African-American. A gag order is in effect for the trial which is expected to last a couple of months.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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