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Central to Ex-Cop's $7M Lawsuit: the Term 'Hairbag'

Keith Dietrich says it's evidence of age discrimination
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2019 2:17 PM CST
Ex-Cop Who Was Called a 'Hairbag' Sues for $7M
In this May 10, 2016 photo provided by the New York City Police Department, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, second from right, examines a bullet resistant safety shield affixed to the side window of an NYPD patrol car in New York.   (NYPD via AP)

Keith Dietrich says he was humiliated at the New York Police Department because, at age 56, his commanders thought he was too old for the job. Central to his $7 million age discrimination lawsuit is an odd term: "hairbag." As the New York Times reports, Dietrich, a decorated detective who had the desirable assignment of working Mayor Bill de Blasio's security detail before he retired this year, says his supervisor referred to him as a "hairbag" behind his back. "A hairbag is an older cop, a burned-out cop, who doesn’t want to do anything and doesn’t care anymore," he tells the Times. But lawyers for the city argue the term simply refers to a longtime officer's uniform—"bag" is police slang for "uniform"—being so old it's fuzzy from use; they say it is simply used to describe police veterans who know the job well.

Dietrich says in his lawsuit he was given "grossly inappropriate and demeaning assignments," the New York Daily News reported last year: He was removed from the security detail and made to work a City Hall security booth; he had to start wearing a uniform instead of the suits detectives typically wear and was asked to use the subway instead of a police car—both moves often seen as demotions; he was switched to night duty and was passed over for a promotion in favor of younger detectives. Higher-ups in the department wondered what was going on, since Dietrich was a decorated detective who had received the NYPD's highest medal for valor in 1994, and Dietrich says that eventually, the department's chief of intelligence called him in in 2017 and told him Dietrich's commanding officer thought he was "a hairbag." Per the Times, he felt he was "nudged" into retiring. (Read more NYPD stories.)

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