Fla. police chief, diversity champ axed for favoring non-white officers for promotions

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After just six months on the job, the diversity-championing police chief of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is now the ex-chief apparently as a result of a controversy over the way he made promotions to officers in the department.

Larry Scirotto, 48, was a former assistant police chief in Pittsburgh before moving to Florida for the Broward County gig. The Fort Lauderdale city manager terminated him late last week.

“At least two Fort Lauderdale cops are complaining they have been passed over for promotions in favor of minority colleagues based on race, sexual orientation and gender by the new police chief, who they claim has made public comments about a ‘minority-first agenda,'” the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported in October 2021.

According to various media reports, at one point, the now-fired chief allegedly called attention to a conference room photo of the Fort Lauderdale PD’s command staff and said “the wall is too white,” and that he intended to “change that.” In a separate incident in which the official was considering promoting one of two officers to captain, he allegedly wondered “which one is blacker?”

Ex-Chief Scirotto insists his conference-room comments were taken out of context and has denied the remark about captain selection.

Scirotto told Miami’s 7 News Miami, “The promotions that I made are of the minority candidates, were because they were exceptional candidates, and they excelled in every level of the organization. They deserved to be promoted, and by the way, they happened to be minority. It wasn’t because they were minority.”

On the request of the city, an outside law firm investigated internal complaints of discrimination. Investigators interviewed 21 witnesses, including the chief. “The investigation concluded that during his time as police chief, Scirotto implemented an approach to hiring and promotion that was unfairly focused on minority candidates,” CNN reported.

City Manager Chris Lagerbloom explained that “We strive to be diverse in our organization. We strive to represent the community that we serve. There’s just certain lawful ways to allow that diversity to happen, and in this case, the investigative report indicated we didn’t quite follow the law in how we were working towards those diverse positions.”

Scirotto was apparently working without a contract and won’t be getting any severance.

The former chief has reportedly lawyered up and intends to sue the city for wrongful termination.

“If promoting diversity is the hill I’m going to die on, I will sleep well tonight. I won’t allow them to tarnish my reputation. I won’t allow them to tarnish the work that I’ve done in the 24 years I’ve been in this profession,” he told CNN. He also explained that of his 15 promotions, “six were ethnic or gender minorities selected for promotions based on their merit.”

The city manager is also reviewing the police promotion process, adding that “I have all the confidence in the world in the people that are in the positions who were promoted,” Local10 News of Fort Lauderdale reported.

Assistant chief of investigations Luis Alvarez is taking over as acting Fort Lauderdale PD chief while the city launches a new search for the top position. Five individuals have served as police in Fort Lauderdale since 2020.

Discrimination based on race or any other legally protected class, if it occurs, is unlawful under various federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Scirotto was also accused of double-dipping by working as a college basketball referee when he was on police time. He has denied that allegation.

Watch a report aired by CBS Miami:


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