'Racial gatekeeping' allegations leveled against the MTA police force.
Racist texts purportedly sent by the proprietor of a company contracted by the MTA to conduct pre-employment polygraph testing for the agency's police force raise additional concerns about internal racial gatekeeping.
Messages purportedly sent to an employee by famous polygrapher and proprietor of InDepthPolygraphs Daniel Ribacoff surfaced after a prospective MTA police officer filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against the agency.
Jonathan Carter, an NYPD officer, claimed in his Sept. 29 petition that he was rejected for the job after failing a polygraph test administered by Ribacoff's daughter.
On Sept. 15, 2017, Ribacoff allegedly sent a text depicting an online meme with the Disney character "Tigger" placed above the head of a Black child and the statement "You've heard of 'Elf on a Shelf,' now get ready for..." As implied, the statement concludes with the N-word.
On Feb. 7, 2018, another message apparently from Ribacoff, who is white, shows former President Trump putting his hand through an entrance in Jerusalem's Wailing Wall with the comment "No, this is not good." According to court documents, "you could fit a Mexican toddler through there."
Ribacoff allegedly sent a meme of a Monopoly board named "Black Monopoly" with all the spots labeled "Go to Jail" in another 2018 chat.
The employee answered, "lmao," and then allegedly informed Ribacoff about his Halloween costume in 1983, according to the EEO complaint.
“Hahaha. Ribacoff allegedly said, "I adore it."
At least seven additional racially offensive texts are referenced in the EEO complaint, including one dated March 24, 2018 in which Ribacoff allegedly said, in reference to another employee, "just give him ghetto work."
The texts – discovered by Carter's attorney – are being used as evidence in a separate lawsuit against Ribacoff in Nassau County.
Carter, who is Black, joined the New York Police Department in 2015. He stated that his record is spotless, with the exception of one unfounded Civilian Complaint Review Board case from 2016.
In early 2020, he completed his physical and medical checks and was prepared to begin work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Then, in December, he failed the final essential step: the polygraph examination.
"I have White Coat Syndrome and become nervous at these events," Carter, 29, explained. "I had no idea what the term 'conceal' meant at the time — and she inquired about my CCRB. I stated that I had none, but she asserted that I lied."
Carter intends to sue the MTA if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States does not take up the case and sue on his behalf.
"Carter was not treated fairly or according to conventional operating standards," his attorney, Peter Crusco, stated. "Polygraphy is an imprecise science. It's a sophisticated type of art that can be twisted if the rules of the road are not followed."
Following the publication of this exclusive revelation online by the Daily News, the MTA announced that it had canceled any remaining polygraphs set to be administered by Ribacoff's company until his contract expires in early 2022.
Ribacoff's purported communications came as no surprise to current and former MTA police officers who accuse the force of racial gatekeeping.
According to MTA officials, approximately 56% of the 1,097 MTA police officers are Caucasian. This is more than 10% more than the 45 percent of the New York City Police Department's 34,500 uniformed officers who are white.
Jose Deras, a lieutenant and vice president of the MTA PD Guardians, an advocacy group for officers of color, said he faced discrimination during the application process.
"I was warned not to apply for the job and was turned down," Deras explained. "I was ultimately admitted six years later."
"There is a high level of nepotism and cronyism within the majority of law enforcement agencies," said Jaraad Hakim, a retired MTA police officer who remains the Guardians' treasurer.
"At the MTA, many candidates of color are first generation. They are the first member of their family to serve in law enforcement, and thus have no one to advise them on what to watch for."
Many white MTA Police applicants with family members who work for the agency receive examination preparation and instructions on how to game the application process, Hakim added.
Hakim and Deras urge the MTA to restructure its hiring and screening procedures for officers.
"Mr. Ribacoff has no recall of sending such text messages," his lawyer, Michael Cassell, stated, adding that the communications originated from individuals suing Ribacoff, "undermining the validity and legitimacy of the relevant texts."
"There is no link whatsoever between the text messages and the manner in which Mr. Ribacoff's organization conducts polygraph examinations of prospective MTA police officers," Cassell stated.
The MTA declined to comment on Carter's complaint, but spokesman Tim Minton stated, "We are dedicated to a diverse and non-discriminatory employment process and to choosing officers who reflect the communities they serve and protect from Poughkeepsie to Montauk." Racism and discrimination, in any form, are never acceptable and contradict the MTA's ideals."