black_police_association_logo.jpgTUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) _ City Council members have approved a settlement with Tuscaloosa's first black police officer, ending a 36-year legal battle over his pension.

Willie Bies Jr. will receive $469,124 over three years under the agreement, which states that he wasn't legally enrolled in the retirement plan but will get the money in recognition of his years of service.

Bies became one of the first blacks hired by the Tuscaloosa Police Department in 1966, but he was placed in a temporary position that gave him the same duties and responsibilities as regular police officers, but not the benefits. Bies and two other black workers took the city to court, and a judge said the three were due to become regular police officers with benefits retroactive to their initial hiring.

Although the court ruled in 1976 that Bies was due benefits, the city pension board ruled he was too old to enroll in the program once the judgment was released. The legal dispute went on until council members approved the settlement on Tuesday.

Mayor Walt Maddox declined comment on the agreement; so did Bies.

Bies retired from the Tuscaloosa Police Department in 1991, making history as the city's first black sworn law enforcement officer to retire.

The settlement represents the city's share of what it would have had to contribute to Bies' pension had he been enrolled in its fire and police pension plan.

The city in 2009 offered Bies a lump sum of $61,799 and a monthly payment of as much as $186 as part of a pension plan they said he was entitled to as a city employee, but city attorney Tim Nunnally said the former officer turned down that amount.

A lawyer for Bies, Lee Loder, said his client was due more than $1 million after working for the city for 25 years.