Group claims discrimination against Hispanic deputies in Osceola County Sheriff's Office

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — The most recent data from the U.S. Census shows that nearly 50 percent of Osceola County’s population is Hispanic.

But in the county Sheriff’s Office, Hispanics make up only nine of approximately 108 leadership positions, a panel of retired deputies and community leaders said.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office said it's working hard to get Hispanic employees into leadership roles, but a group of business owners, retired deputies, lawyers and community leaders said the numbers show otherwise.

The group alleges disparate impact, which is a method of discrimination that's done through policy and procedure, rather than intent.

The group's numbers show only 9 percent of the leadership roles are occupied by Hispanic men and women, but the Sheriff's Office said 22 percent of the leadership is Hispanic.

Sheriff's Office officials said they "continuously work towards increasing and enhancing workplace diversity to reflect our growing community."

The group said the language barrier keep Hispanic deputies from getting promotions.

"The fact that folks are being required to write (a thesis) on any number of topics in English is difficult for a lot of folks who are good deputies, (and) who have been with the department for a long time," Daniel Perez said.

An open letter to the Department of Justice from a deputy said, "We as Latino Americans are not afforded the same opportunities as our Anglo brother's in blue," and there are "discriminatory practices" in "promotions and performance evaluations."

Document: Open letter from Osceola Deputy to Department of Justice

Three leadership roles opened up Tuesday as deputies retire and Channel 9 learned a number of Hispanic candidates are eligible for the positions.

A panel is scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday at noon in the Osceola County Courthouse to address the issue.