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Ex-NYPD Detective Says He Was Denied Backup Because He’s White: ‘Traumatic’

A former detective who worked undercover for the New York Police Department claims he was denied backup from other officers during violent clashes because he is white.

Navy veteran John Olsen filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court in June alleging racial discrimination and military status discrimination after saying he was assigned to do undercover work in a largely Hispanic neighborhood.

“Detective Olsen, while working as an undercover detective for the NYPD, was assigned to a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood which, as a white undercover, increased the danger of his job, decreased his ability to buy drugs safely and angered his bosses,” Olsen said. attorney John Scola told Fox News Digital.

The lawsuit claims he was left without support from minority NYPD members during violent confrontations with drug dealers, including near-fatal incidents, because of his skin color.


Former NYPD Detective John Olsen holding his Citation of Merit.

“A white undercover will be fun,” Olsen heard on his first day of training in 2019 to become an undercover detective, according to the lawsuit obtained by Fox News Digital. He was the only white officer in the formation, according to the suit.

The comment was one of the first in a series of racist incidents and comments Olsen allegedly faced when he was transferred to the Northern Manhattan Detective Bureau in 2019. Olsen joined the NYPD in 2015 after served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan, and was later transferred to the NYPD’s specialized crime-fighting unit, and then eventually to his undercover assignment.

“As the only white undercover in a position that is generally considered minority work, plaintiff was constantly under a microscope,” the lawsuit alleges.

Olsen successfully completed his training and was assigned to undercover work buying drugs from dealers in Manhattan. Olsen “excelled” as an undercover detective, but reportedly faced continued harassment for his color while facing a “greater risk of harm” when buying the drug from dealers, it said. -he assures.


After only a few months on the job, Olsen was reportedly surrounded by suspects, punched in the face and threatened with suicide while shopping for drugs in Harlem. A car full of detectives observed the scene but did not intervene, according to the lawsuit.

“They looked [the attacker] get back inside the housing projects,” Olsen said, according to the New York Post. “It was totally against our narcotics rules to let this go.

Each undercover agent in the department must have another member of the force, known as a “ghost”, on the same block in case an operation escalates into violence.

The 34-year-old Navy veteran said in court papers that his fellow detectives did not want the “ghost” that day and risked “being tainted by an association with a white infiltrator”.

John Olson

Former NYPD Detective John Olsen seen during his military service. (John Scola)

“Sorry kid, I’m not doing anything, it’s not 1992,” the detective told Olsen after the first assault, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2019, Olsen reportedly faced another violent incident when he had to chase down and fight off a drug dealer who pulled a knife on him.

Olsen was apparently attempting to buy crack cocaine in Hamilton Heights when another previously arrested dealer was spotted by an NYPD field crew approaching the other dealer preparing to sell Olsen crack. The other NYPD members apparently did not report the other drug dealer’s presence to Olsen and were “again operating without a proper ‘ghost’ because of his race,” according to the lawsuit.

The dealer selling crack cocaine returned to Olsen after obtaining the drugs from a hidden location and attempted to make Olsen smoke the substance to prove he was not a cop, according to the allegations. Olsen attempted to extricate himself from the situation, according to the suit, before the dealer pulled out a knife and threatened to stab Olsen multiple times.

“My life was in danger and I know no one will come to save me because of this last time, so I had to do what I had to do,” Olsen said, according to the New York Post.

Olsen drew his gun, chased the dealer and overpowered him, he claimed. The incident, however, left Olsen with a torn labrum and rotator cuff, which would have kept him out of work until January 2020.

NYPD vehicle

An NYPD vehicle is seen in Times Square in New York on October 24, 2022. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“Normally, such an incident would result in a transfer to a different command,” the lawsuit states. “It would almost always be done to give the infiltrator a fresh start in a new area where he could buy narcotics.”

Olsen said he believed he wasn’t transferred because his bosses were angry that he wasn’t arresting more drug dealers.

Then in September 2020, Olsen tested positive for COVID-19, which reportedly infuriated one of his bosses.

After returning to work, he was transferred from northwest Manhattan to East Harlem and the Upper East Side, he said. His other colleagues who also contracted COVID-19 — who were Hispanic and Asian — were not transferred when they returned to work and were instead offered more overtime opportunities totaling up to $25,000. each that year compared to Olsen, he claimed.


“Furthermore, the plaintiff did not receive fair evaluations compared to his peers performing the same work with similar performance,” the lawsuit states. “Because of these higher appraisal scores, minority officers within the command have greater opportunities for career advancement within the NYPD.”

Olsen argued that his bosses made “his life as uncomfortable as possible”, including a superior who allegedly told Olsen that the motivation behind him was because he was a “military person”.

“He said, ‘I’m going to make your life very miserable, I’m going to be above you…everything you do, I’m going to look for mistakes,'” Olsen told the New York Post. “And I don’t know why, but at the end he said, ‘It’s because you’re a military man.'”

John Olsen in Marines

Former NYPD Detective John Olsen seen during his military service. (John Scola)

“I didn’t expect that at all,” Olsen continued. “He said it was because I was a military man, but I think it was also because I was a white undercover officer and they were trying to get rid of me.”

Olsen finally resigned from the force in May last year, 13 years before he was eligible to receive an NYPD pension.


“When our client complained about the discrimination, he was told that he was facing harsher treatment due to his time in the US military and being sent back to increasingly dangerous situations for force him out of the unit,” Scola told Fox News Digital. “

This casualness towards Detective Olsen’s life forced him into multiple fights with drug dealers, one of which required him to draw his gun to avoid being stabbed and eventually led to his resignation by fear for his safety.”

For Olsen, he said the NYPD experience was one of the “most traumatic” he had ever had.

“I fought in Afghanistan, I was in special ops in the South Bronx, I was undercover in Narcotics in Harlem, but I think that was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life – having the whole NYPD armed against me,” Olsen told the New York Post.


He is suing for unspecified damages for racial and military discrimination. The NYPD declined to comment on pending litigation when approached by Fox News Digital.


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