What we won’t be doing in 2022? Allowing toxic work environments to dig early graves for Black women. As of late last year, the Baltimore Police Department is short four fewer Black female officers. The women include Danika Yampierre, Sgts. Jasmin Rowlett and Welai Grant and former Sgt. Tashawna Gaines. The collective has not only walked away from their positions but have filed a lawsuit against the BPD after being discriminated against due to both their race and gender.
Dionna Maria Lewis, an attorney that represents the four women says that in the intersection of the #metoo movement and the call for police reform (or complete abolishment) lie the stories of women who have faced harassment for speaking up in their own defense.
“Now, we have law enforcement women stepping up and finally saying enough is enough,” she said.
After reporting acts of discrimination, Yampierre says she was forced to contend with hositility and open retaliation. The mother of three, with another on the way, told NBC News, “I would never want my children to experience this and to see everything that I’m going through. I’m supposed to be their hero.”
But now she and several other women will become their own heroes. And while the Baltimore Police Department refused to comment, (stating via email that officials are unable to talk publicly about pending litigation), they are not the only police department who’s recently come under fire for similar offenses.
In September of 2021, ten Black women D.C. police officers sued the city for discrimination. Just a few short months later in November, a federal judge awarded Lt. Detective Donna Gavin $2 million in a discrimination case she brought to court against the Boston Police Department.
The common thread in most of these cases, is that the lawsuits did not come until after the women spoke up against one discriminatory issue or another, and faced retaliation.
“People will stop talking to you,” Welai Grant told NBC News. “There’s an island that they put you on. … You’re in isolation. I went through that. I’m going through that. That blue wall of silence … it’s real.”
Sergeant Jasmine Rowlett said that she would find toy rats on her desk upon arriving to work after she reported allegations of sexual harassment. From then on she says she could not perform properly on the job, in fear of her safety among her colleagues.
“We all love our job as police officers,” said Yampierre. “That’s why we stayed. But it’s not the people who we are protecting outside, in the city, that we’re scared of. We’re scared of the people inside. That’s the problem.”