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Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus. (Ray Chavez/Staff File)

A race-bias lawsuit that has dogged the Richmond Police Department for five years went to trial Monday.

Seven black police managers accuse Chief Chris Magnus and his former second-in-command, both of whom are white, of discrimination in promotion and personnel decisions and of telling racist jokes.

Magnus, who the city plucked from Fargo, N.D., in 2006, has emphatically denied the allegations.

The case has crawled along since 2007 in both federal and Contra Costa Superior courts, costing the city at least $3 million.

Lawyers for the city and the officers debated ground rules for the trial Monday at the Superior Court in Martinez.

Attorneys for the officers wanted to remove a long-standing gag order on everyone involved with the case. Lawyers representing the city argued that the gag order is necessary to protect the jury from excessive media coverage.

Jury selection will likely stretch through the week, with opening statements beginning Monday. The trial is expected to last through April.

Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787.



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