Systemic racism, sexism and sexual harassment are staples in Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department while the mayor, city council and police chief sit silently behind a blue wall colored in shame.
All of that and so much more are alleged in explosive claims made by 10 African American MPD officers.
According to civil rights lawyer Pamela Keith, at least 20 officers have come forward since the first action in October.
Before all filings conclude, Keith said there might be hundreds more to join.
While MPD terminated some of the officers, some remained on the job.
Two additional lawsuits were filed in November and a third in December.
A hearing is expected in January on the lawsuits.
Keith, affiliated with the Donald Temple Law Offices in northwest D.C. and a former United States Navy judge advocate, described a most toxic work culture at MPD, where she said blatant corruption and racial and gender discrimination are not only tolerated but rewarded.
“All disciplinary decisions are made by one very racist guy who is very protective of white male officers,” Keith said. “[In one instance], white male officers covered up for another white male officer who falsely accused a young Black man of a crime just to put him in the system.
“The Internal Affairs Division report completed by a Black female who had been in Internal Affairs for 19 years led to her being fired because they wanted to silence her and keep her from participating in the trial of the police officer,” she said. “The thing about it is the officer’s body-worn camera had all the evidence that she reported. So, they put the white officer back to work and fired the Black female officer who had 29 years on the force and 19 in Internal Affairs.”
Further, Felicia Carson and Lisa Burton accused the head of the IAD of forcing them out because of their race and gender.
The officers alleged the division gave preferential treatment to white officers.
“The MPD is all about a culture that protects white male officers and prioritizes them,” Keith stated.
In a statement, MPD said it “remains committed to treating all fairly and equitably.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
Carson disagreed with MPD’s statement of fairness.
When she referred a white officer to a disciplinary review board for wrongfully grabbing a young Black male by the throat and lying about the reason for arresting him, MPD fired her to keep her from speaking out.
She said department higher-ups canceled a disciplinary hearing for the white officer.
Keith said three years ago, the Internal Affairs Bureau had 13 Black officers, including nine women. Today, the bureau has just two Black female agents.
“Most of the seasoned and experienced Black women agents were moved out by [the new chief] either by termination, targeted harassment and retaliation, or due to being overworked and pressured for results which forced them to quit,” Keith stated.
She said racism is rampant and the lack of discipline absent, one white officer on a presidential detail talked about shooting former first lady Michelle Obama.
“The officer showed my client her gun and said she would kill Michelle Obama,” Keith remarked. “It was not an empty threat; they were on the presidential detail. But nothing was done.”
Keith further described an overall unhinged department. She noted the department isolated one of her clients after arresting a white officer for drunk driving.
“A citizen called in because the officer was crawling around and operating his cruiser while drunk,” Keith told NNPA Newswire. “What was my client supposed to do?”
She said there had been multiple sex harassment complaints at MPD, and when they occur, the department usually reassigns the female complainant while never punishing the male transgressor.
“There’s blatant sexual harassment and blatant retaliation if a complaint is made,” Keith asserted. “MPD has a culture of allowing people to abuse their power. They don’t check, and the instincts of the sergeants and the lieutenants are to use their power to make someone’s life miserable. There’s no mechanism to check that.”
Keith noted a case where MPD fired cadets after they witnessed gross misconduct. She said the cadets received invitations to the home of a high-ranking MPD member who served alcohol to minors gathered there.
The cadets were targeted as “bad apples,” Keith said.
“Five of my complainants are still employed at MPD, but it’s a battlefield inside of work and outside of work,” Keith insisted. “The systemic way that the police bully out those they don’t like … MPD has a deeply dysfunctional Equal Employment Office where the chief EEO officer believes his job is to protect the MPD from claims and not to investigate.
“We have three sworn affidavits where officers were told to find negative things on those making complaints,” she said. “The complaints would go to the accused officer. Also, the minute you file a complaint, our officers find themselves investigated by Internal Affairs, so many people remain silent. In four years, the EEO has not substantiated a single claim of gender or race discrimination.”
The fired officers seek reinstatement and back pay and other monetary damages.
The lawsuit also asks the MPD and the city to establish a $100 million fund for “700 Black women who would be part of the class action going back 10 years,” Keith said.
The Boston College Law School graduate noted that precedent is on her clients’ side.
“Individual compensation for typical EEO cases would usually be about $300,000 each. In a whistleblower case, which is the second of these cases, that tends to involve a lot of money,” Keith continued. “In Los Angeles, there was a whistleblower case against the LAPD where the plaintiff got $8 million. We have a $5 million claim for each of the officers here because what they’ve been through is insane. We have the confession of one of the sergeants who admitted retaliation. We have her on tape.”