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Appeals court rules Oklahoma trooper's lawsuit may move forward

Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper sued state Public Safety Department, alleging race discrimination.
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Modified: July 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: July 15, 2013

— A federal appeals court is allowing a veteran Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper to pursue a lawsuit that alleges his superiors retaliated against him for complaining that he was the victim of race discrimination.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 Monday against the state of Oklahoma's contention that it was immune from Thomas Trent Pettigrew's lawsuit. He was a captain and commander of Troop A when he sued in 2010 in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City.

The litigation began because Pettigrew, a white man, applied in 2009 for promotion to field major, but a black officer received the promotion. Pettigrew filed grievances, complaining that he had been denied promotion because of his race.

Pettigrew, of Yukon, contended that Oklahoma Commissioner of Public Safety Kevin Ward had been pressured by a “black caucus” to promote a black officer who was less qualified.

Six months after Pettigrew filed a grievance, the state Public Safety Department stripped him of his post. The department told him he was being investigated for potential news leaks about an unrelated complaint that Ward had sexually harassed a female lieutenant.

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