New York Daily News
Sure she said those things, but she didn’t mean any offense.
A black NYPD lieutenant accused of using racially charged terms like “high yellow” and “chinky eyes” in front of her subordinates admitted Tuesday that she said the phrases, but said she didn’t know they were demeaning.
“I did not know that they were derogatory,” Lt. Rasheena Huffman said during her administrative trial at Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan.
“Growing up, you would look at a child’s eyes and you would say, ‘She has those cute, chinky eyes,’ ” Huffman said, as she tried to explain she thought it meant “adorable.”
“I was just told that, to Asian people, it’s derogatory. People are adding things to what I said to make me sound crazy or unprofessional,” she added.
Huffman is facing departmental charges for creating a hostile work environment and using racial and offensive language against underlings. One of the cops she allegedly upset was Police Officer Vanessa Weinbel, a white officer who was dating a black man.
Weinbel claims Huffman was incensed over her mixed-race relationship and told her at Police Service Area 9 in Flushing, Queens, that black men liked her only because she looked like a “Kardashian chick.”
Huffman allegedly told Weinbel that if she had children with her beau their offspring would be “confused” and “messed up,” and the cop wouldn’t be able to take care of her mixed-race child’s hair.
“It was extremely uncomfortable for me,” Weinbel testified Monday. “I was walking on eggshells.”
Weinbel claims higherups did nothing about the abuse, so she filed a complaint within the department — and a still pending $15 million lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court.
A handful of other NYPD employees came forward to say they heard Huffman use the phrases “chinky eyes,” “high yellow” and “redbone” for light-skinned blacks when talking about mixed-race relationships and children.
Huffman admitted she said the words in jest.
“I never meant it as harassment,” she said. “It was always in a joking way.”
Weinbel threw a baby shower for Huffman and sent her superior friendly texts after the remarks, the lieutenant claimed. Then, when she came back from vacation, she learned that Weinbel had filed a department equal employment opportunity complaint against her.
A short time later, she was facing a lawsuit.
“They put it in the newspaper in regards to the accusations, saying that I had said these comments of things I never said,” Huffman explained. “People in my daughter’s school saw it. My neighbors saw it.”
“They’re making me out to be a monster of a lieutenant when I’m not.”
Huffman also challenged claims that her words are widely considered offensive, adding that the website urbandictionary.com does not consider the phrase “high yellow” to be derogatory.
Penny Bluford-Garrett, an attorney from the NYPD department advocate’s office, seemed stunned to learn that the 17-year veteran had no idea that some of the terms were considered offensive.
In her closing, she asked that Huffman give up 30 vacation days and be forced to undergo sensitivity training.
Huffman’s attorney Marissa Gillespie said the allegations against her client were “trumped up to fit a narrative.”
“She never meant to offend anyone,” Gillespie said.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner Jeff Adler, who oversaw the hearing, will determine Huffman’s guilt and recommend a punishment to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who would make the final decision.
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