WASHINGTON—Serious charges have been added to serious charges against Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) by two more veteran, Black, female, former cops who insist they were forced out of the department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) by Assistant Chief Wilfredo Manlapaz “to prohibit their opposition to race discrimination and professional misconduct in MPD, and within IAD,” the women said according to a lawsuit filed Dec. 8.
The newest plaintiffs—Felicia Carson and Lisa Burton—join a group of former police cadets and 10 former and current Black, female officers who are suing the MPD because of victimization in what their lawsuit describes as an “enterprise-wide culture of race and sex discrimination and intense retaliation against those who complain.”
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.” One misconduct charge involves a complaint, which has been dropped, against a White officer accused of brutalizing a young, Black male suspect.
Ms. Carson, a 19-year internal affairs veteran, was investigating a White officer who had been caught by a body worn camera “lying about an investigation, falsely arresting a young Black man, (and) grabbing him by his throat,” attorney Pam Keith said in an interview. “Claiming, first, that he assaulted a police officer, which was nonsense, then claiming that he resisted arrest, which is also nonsense. And when he got caught lying about it all, he maintained his dishonesty.”
That White cop’s case was referred to a disciplinary review board, according to attorney Keith, “just weeks before the disciplinary review board was supposed to take place, the head of internal affairs fired my client, and shortly thereafter, the disciplinary review board was canceled, and the officer was put back to work.”
Facts surrounding the earlier case are just as shocking. One of the 10 plaintiffs was once cited as MPD “Officer of the Year,” and another is now an assistant chief of police. The officers suing in that case have more than 237 years of combined service. (Read previous coverage on this case in, Final Call Vol. 41 No. 3 article, ‘When you’re Black, you’re never blue enough’: The experiences of Black women in policing.)
“In this particular situation, it’s just where women by definition are more vulnerable, because men in this particular situation have dominated these women without recourse,” attorney Donald Temple, who represents the 10 officers, said in an interview.
Those plaintiffs are: Sinobia Brinkley, Tabatha Knight, Karen Carr, Tiara Brown, Leslie Clark, Chanel Dickerson, Regenna Grier, Tamika Hampton, Lashaun Lockerman and Kia Mitchell.
“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,” said former officer Sinobia Brinkley at a press conference.
“The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department institutionally and systematically discriminates against African American women employees who suffer almost on a daily basis a double standard,” attorney Temple told the reporters at a press conference. “This is a landmark case because these individual women who are seated next to and behind me have the courage and the audacity to no longer stutter, endure, run from a system that alters and painstakingly affects every day of their lives.”
The lawsuit says that each plaintiff has complained multiple times about unfair treatment based on their race and gender to either the Department’s EEO officials and/or their managers, to no avail.
They insist that the MPD has, for decades, “treated Black women police officers with contempt, to the point of systematic psychological abuse.”
The toxic culture which resulted in this behavior, Mr. Temple said, goes up to management levels, and to the highest management levels.
In Ms. Carson’s case, “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,” said attorney Keith. “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 seven percent.”
Ironically, for much of the time these alleged offenses occurred, a woman was the Metropolitan Police Chief, and the incumbent mayor—Muriel Bowser—is a Black woman, and yet, both attorneys insist, they ignored the problem despite numerous complaints. MPD has mostly declined to comment about the ongoing litigation.
“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 spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told WJLA-TV7. “We take these allegations seriously and we will be reviewing them thoroughly and responding accordingly.”
That’s not good enough, said attorney Keith. “Neither the mayor, nor the police chief have shown any concern,” she said. “Not the least little bit. What do they care? Not the least a little bit. They’ve got nothing to say.
“They don’t have to actually address any of these things. This young man’s civil rights were absolutely trounced on, and people ought to be infuriated, because I sure am. And like I said, this is not me alleging this. The chief of internal affairs signed off on the report, but he fired my client so that she could remain silent. And he kept the White officer,” attorney Keith continued.
In all there are three lawsuits by Black females against the MPD. A third suit was filed by former police cadets.
“Sadly, the MPD cadet program and the academy has become as infected with the systematic retaliation as the rest of the MPD,” attorney Keith said, including 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, the sergeant was reportedly allowed to read and see the statements, and afterwards 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,” the attorney added.
“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, then it’s going to be necessary. But 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,” attorney Temple concluded.