I would certainly think that, in a town with a Black female mayor, a Black chief of police, and where the only recent chief who wasn’t Black was a woman, such a jurisdiction would be a poster child for how to treat women in the police department’s ranks. That’s what I would have thought until recently.
But no. On Dec. 8, the third lawsuit brought by Black female officers, former and current, was filed against the District and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), charging an “enterprise-wide culture of race and sex discrimination and intense retaliation against those who complain.”
Uh, excuse me, Sister Mayor? Excuse me, Brother Police Chief? Before you can successfully give fair, even-handed, humane law enforcement services to a sometimes-restive community, you have to be fair and equitable with your own personnel. Duh.
The plaintiffs are three groups of Black female police officers, who served the D.C. government for a total of more than 250 years! One of the women suing the department was recently “Officer of the Year,” and another is currently an assistant chief of police. Say what?
“We’re tired of being bullied by a system that don’t want to change, a culture that don’t want to change, [in which] they’re going to continue to operate in a good old boy system. And we’ve had enough,” former Officer Sinobia Brinkley said at a press conference in early October, shortly after the first lawsuit was filed, by 10 women.
Less than a month later, another lawsuit was announced on behalf of three former MPD cadets.
“You can think of cadets a little bit like the junior ROTC, most of them sign up while they are in high school and while they are cadets, they are civilian employees of the city,” their attorney Pam Keith said in an interview. They receive training at the police academy and get on-the-job training by shadowing police officers.
“Sadly, the MPD cadet program and the academy has become as infected with the systematic retaliation as the rest of the MPD,” Keith said. She described a sergeant “who had been engaging in favoritism, unprofessional behavior and had decided to take a particularly close relationship with some of the cadets.”
When cadets complained, that sergeant was reportedly allowed to read and see the statements from the plaintiffs, and afterward began “a completely untethered retaliatory campaign against them,” including harassment, disciplinary action and putting them on assignment where they did nothing but sit in a building for eight hours a day. That sergeant even called one of the plaintiffs and threatened her life, the attorney said.
Those two lawsuits complain that the MPD Internal Affairs Department (IAD) “is unprofessional and does not protect complainants and witnesses from retaliation.” Now, a third lawsuit has been filed, this time by two former IAD veterans — one with 19 years in the department.
In the most recent suit, the IAD chief is accused of using “power to cull Black women from IAD, and to manipulate its investigative process to protect white police officers accused of misconduct.”
“The person who inserted himself into the process was chief of internal affairs. And that man is racist. And he uses his power to favor white officers and disfavor Black officers, especially Black women,” Keith said. “When he took over the department, there were nine Black female agents out of 24 agents. Now there’s two Black agents out of 29 agents. He dropped the number of women in that department from 37 percent to less than 7 percent.”
“While we cannot discuss the specific allegations due to pending litigation, the Metropolitan Police Department is committed to treating all members fairly and equitably throughout our organization,” a MPD spokesperson told WJLA-TV (Channel 7). “We take these allegations seriously and we will be reviewing them thoroughly and responding accordingly.”
That’s not good enough, Keith said: “Neither the mayor, nor the police chief have shown any concern, not the least little bit. What do they care? Not the least a little bit. They’ve got nothing to say.”
“And this battle is going to be a battle that if we have [to], on behalf of the class-action, on behalf of similar situated women in the department,” Keith said. “We think there will be something that ultimately in the end will help us to change the culture of the police department and the level of accountability and transparency in the department so that we can effectively protect the democracy in the city and the democracy in the country.”