Four veteran Black female officers are speaking out against a culture of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation they say they faced while working for the Baltimore police department.
According to The Baltimore Sun, these women have all experienced discriminatory acts against them resulting in them speaking out regardless of the consequences. One officer reported that she had a fake rat left on her desk while another said she was harassed by fellow officers while on maternity leave. Another female officer said she was involuntarily transferred and passed over for a promotion when she made a complaint against a white male officer, per the Baltimore Sun.
All four women spoke at a news conference organized by their attorney, Dionna Maria Lewis, Friday outside City Hall. Their attorney set out to call attention to what she called the underlying culture of the department that mistreats minorities, especially Black women, per the Baltimore Sun.
“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?”
According to The Baltimore Sun, the allegations come as the department undergoes sweeping reforms mandated by a federal consent decree. The agreement was reached in 2017 after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found officers routinely violated citizens’ civil rights, especially in predominantly poor black neighborhoods.
“If leaders of the Baltimore Police Department cannot get justice, cannot get respect, cannot be treated in a way that honors their civil rights, then what do the rest of us here in Baltimore have to hope for. When will the culture of corruption in the Baltimore Police Department finally change? There is still much work to be done.” said Kobi Little, president of the local NAACP, at Friday’s news conference.
Joining Little was Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper of the Baltimore City Sherriff’s Office who also serves as chair of the National Black Police Association.
The first officer suing was Sgt. Danika Yampierre. She filed her lawsuit in May, alleging she was discriminated against and harassed while she oversaw the City Hall security unit, and that the harassment continued even as she was on maternity leave.
“Officers 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” and targeted by frivolous internal affairs complaints. “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,” Yampierre said.
The next officer suing the department was Jasmin Rowlett who said at the news conference that toy rats were placed on her desk in an effort to intimidate her and that she was called a b***.
Her complaint filed in May also stated that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by another officer who worked with her when she was assigned to the Northeastern District.
Rowlett said Friday that her complaints to internal affairs were closed without investigation. Rowlett previously claimed in another lawsuit that she was unfairly accused of fraternizing with a male Hispanic officer and she received a $77,000 settlement from the city, per The Baltimore Sun.
The third officer to sue was Welai Grant. According to The Sun, she said that in 2019 she reported a police major for misconduct for calling an applicant an n-word. Her suit, filed in August, said she reported the complaint to the Inspector General’s Office, and that Police Commissioner Michael Harrison pulled her into a meeting in 2019 to discuss the complaint. After that, she said she was involuntarily transferred and passed over for promotion without a valid reason.
The last officer to sue was Tashawna Gaines, a former sergeant. According to The Sun, she said she used to work for the police department and, in 2017, sought to be reinstated at her former rank of sergeant but was denied by then-Commissioner Kevin Davis. She said the denial came at a time the force was severely understaffed.
Gaines said Friday at the news conference that she left in good standing and that white men were reinstated while she was the only Black female seeking the reinstatement at the time.
“I wasn’t one of the boys,” she said. “Discrimination and retaliation is an ongoing issue within the Baltimore Police Department.”
All four women have pending federal lawsuits against the department.