The Philadelphia Police Department in June announced department-wide racial sensitivity training after learning of cops’ racist Facebook posts.
They should have included antisexual-harassment training, too.
Because if what is alleged in a lawsuit recently filed in federal court by two female police officers is true, the department needs a major cultural shift.
From the very top to the bottom.
This stuff is nothing new. Two years ago, the city paid $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit by a woman who claimed a veteran police commander sexually assaulted her when she was an officer.
It’s a disgrace, really.
It’s hard enough being a Philadelphia police officer, with all of the dangers that come with the job.
But imagine also being black and female and a new mother, and having to endure dumb comments about “chocolate milk” and “needing milk” when all you want to do is express breast milk for your newborn. And then, once you’re finished, you put the milk in an office refrigerator, only for it to mysteriously disappear.
Or imagine having to deal with a supervisor who wants to play grab-butt as you’re walking up the basement stairs of a house after conducting a search or serving a search warrant.
Or repeatedly having a coworker touch you inappropriately and make sexual comments such as, “You’re giving me action in my pants,” “Bend over like that again,” and, “Damn, you’re sexy.”
These are just a handful of the disturbing allegations made by two female police officers — one black, the other black and Hispanic — in a lawsuit filed July 29 and amended Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The biggest bombshell claim came from Cpl. Audra McCowan, 36, who alleges that when she notified then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross about what she was experiencing, he said he was going to “school” her on sexual harassment. The suit alleges that Ross also reportedly said he was still mad at her for breaking off their two-year affair, which according to the suit lasted from 2009 to 2011.
Ross resigned Tuesday, and on Wednesday told reporters, “I have never sought retribution.”
Meanwhile, Ian M. Bryson, an attorney who represents both McCowan and Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen, said they aren’t ready to give interviews just yet.
“They are as surprised about this as anybody,” Bryson said of Ross’ resignation. “They don’t want to talk about it right now.”
A former black female Philly police officer — who asked not to be identified for fear that her new business might be negatively impacted — told me she had been repeatedly propositioned during her time on the force.
“I’ll give you a prime example. When I was in the Police Academy … they sent us out to districts. They made us work in plainclothes so we could see how NETs [Narcotics Enforcement Teams] operated.
“The sergeant kissed me,” she said. “He did it, and I told him I didn’t feel comfortable, and he did it again.”
The former cop said that if female officers complain about sexual harassment, “they make it so hard for you. They pick on you. They isolate you. They make it so you don’t even want to come to work.”
I first heard whispers about the allegations in February. But the case didn’t make headlines until after the salacious details about Ross were filed in court Friday.
The reaction was seismic.