Four Black women veteran officers who have served within the Baltimore Police Department held a news conference Friday (Nov. 5) outside City Hall in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. Each of the women have pending federal lawsuits against the Department, alleging harassment, intimidation, and racial discrimination, The Baltimore Sun reports. They’re seeking $40 million collectively in damages.
Attorneys for the city have filed motions to dismiss the claims. However, the officers are pushing forward with their suits and speaking out about their mistreatment. Sergeant Danika Yampierre alleged she was discriminated against and harassed while she oversaw the City Hall security unit. She said the abuse continued while she was on maternity leave.
At the news conference, Yampierre said her own colleagues “colluded with the accused officers involved by tipping them off with confidential information pertaining to my complaint … the moment I spoke out, I became the black sheep,” she said. “There are so many more Black women in the police department who are suffering in silence and terrified to speak out because of severe retaliation.” According to The Baltimore Sun, the city filed a motion to dismiss her case in October.
Jasmin Rowlett told reporters at the news conference toy rats were placed on her desk, and she was called a “bitch” by her coworkers. Rowlett’s complaint, which was filed in May like Sgt. Yampierre’s, claims she faced repeated sexual harassment by another officer who worked with her in the Northeastern District.
Rowlett mentioned that her complaints to internal affairs were not investigated. Since she previously received a $77,000 settlement from the city for claiming she was unfairly accused of fraternizing with a male officer, the city filed a motion to dismiss her latest suit, arguing: “Plaintiff rehashes, reframes, and refashions prior allegations and the continuing action thereof and now demands relief through this second lawsuit.”
Officer Welai Grant said that she reported a police major, two years ago, who called her a “nigger.” She reported her complaint to the Inspector General’s Office and met with Police Commisioner Michael Harrison about her complaint. After, Grant said she was involuntarily transferred and witnessed others receive promotions over her.
Former Sergeant Tashawna Gaines said she left the Department in 2017, and wanted to be reinstated at her former rank of sergeant but was denied by the Commissioner at the time, Kevin Davis. Gaines stated that she left in good standing and the force was severely understaffed, but she was still told she could not come back to her previous position. Meanwhile, she said white men were given their jobs back.
“I wasn’t one of the boys,” Gaines said. “Discrimination and retaliation is an ongoing issue within the Baltimore Police Department.
Lawyers representing the city have attempted to dismiss Gaines’ claims — similar to the regard for the other three Black women’s suits. They believe Gaines voluntarily resigned from the department when she sought secondary employment as a news reporter for local station WBAL.
Dionna Maria Lewis, who is the attorney representing Gaines, Rowlett, Grant, and Yampierre, organized the news conference to shed light on what she called the underlying culture of the department. “At what point will the BPD self-monitor against the department’s own known complicit, insidious and institutional culture of sex and race-based discrimination and sexual harassment, and severe retaliation?” she said. “At what point will there be accountability and oversight?”
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