Black women have to carefully navigate the workplace to avoid the Angry Black Woman trope when speaking up about injustice. This much is true for the former and current Black women officers who filed a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
According to CNN, the lawsuit alleges that the women experienced racial and sexual discrimination, intimidation and a hostile, corrupt workplace.
“We were labeled as troublemakers, angry Black women, and I’m here to say that we are not angry Black women,” Tabatha Knight, one of the 10 plaintiffs, at Wednesday’s news conference, said. “We are tired women and no one should have to endure what we did.”
CNN reports that Knight along with former officers Sinobia Brinkley, Kia Mitchell, and Regenna Grier, say they were forced out of the department. Among the rest of the plaintiffs are the current assistant police chief Chanel Dickerson and a former officer and 2019 “Officer of the Year” Tiara Brown.
NBC News affiliate News4 Washington reports that each plaintiff had their multiple complaints of harassment, misconduct and inappropriate behavior ignored by both their superiors and the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity division, which handles these complaints. In some instances, the women say they experienced systemic retaliation for speaking up.
[block quote] Several MPD EEO investigators say they were forced to record all EEO interviews, and the EEO manager would play the tapes for management officers accused of discrimination before the investigators had a chance to speak with them, according to the lawsuit.
“Even worse, the investigative reports of claims of racism and sexism were often altered and fraudulently modified to exonerate management personnel. In four years, the MPD EEO Department did not substantiate a single claim of race or gender discrimination,” the firm said. [end block quotes]
The women are seeking $100 million in compensatory damages, according to CNN, and requesting a special master to oversee and restructure the department’s EEO division and personnel practices.
The suit also includes many of the troubling experiences the officers experienced.
Former officer Mitchell says she complained about a white officer pulling out his penis to urinate in a bottle while in a van with her and other male officers. CNN reports that the officer was not disciplined and was promoted to lieutenant later on. The suit also claims that she and former officer Brinkley experienced retaliation after they complained about riding in a flea-infested vehicle.
Officer Leslie Clark, who is still on the force, reported a fellow officer who allegedly showed her a picture of a gun he said he was going to use to assassinate former first lady Michelle Obama. The lawsuit states that after her complaint, her husband, another fellow officer, had to start responding to her calls for backup because other officers would not show up.
Another egregious story came from former Officer Knight, who testified before the City Council last year that MPD managers were allegedly changing arrest and crime records to reflect more serious crimes, News4 reports.
Their attorneys claim MPD management refused to transfer all the women from abusive superiors or discipline the alleged offenders. “They have all reported up the chain of command. Some have testified to the City Council. Most have reached out to the mayor’s office and they have been disbelieved ignored and set aside,” lead attorney Pam Keith, according to News4.
The filing accuses MPD chiefs of police of removing the Black women officers from assignments and interfering with their work schedules after they complained. Allegedly, EEO officials also referred the complainants to the Internal Affairs Division to be investigated, News4 reports.
The MPD issued the following statement, according to both CNN and News4:
“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. We take these allegations seriously and we will be reviewing them thoroughly and responding accordingly.”
CNN reports the state’s attorney general’s office said they have not been served yet and cannot make a comment.