Four Black female police officers have sued the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), alleging that the department discriminated against them based on their race and gender. The suit claims that the department cultivated an environment that mistreats minorities, especially Black women.
Late last year Sgt. Danika Yampierre, Sgt. Jasmin Rowlett, Sgt. Welai Grant and former Sgt. Tashawna Gaines filed discrimination lawsuits against the BPD with hopes that they would see change in their department.
All of the women had reported their experiences of discrimination to the federal Equal Epmployment Opportunity Comminssion, but said their co-workers had adverse reactions to their complaints and created a contentious work environment.
“People will stop talking to you,” 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.”
Rowlett said she was labeled “the snitch” by her colleagues after she reported her allegations of an officer repeatedly sexually harassing her. Her initial complaint was closed without investigation, after she filed the complaint, she says started finding toy rats on her desk at work. According to her suit, she was “petrified” to perform her job because she was afraid she would not be protected by her fellow officers.
Yampierre alleged in her suit that she was discriminated against while she oversaw the City Hall security unit, which continued while she was pregnant. She said she decided to press charges against the BPD when the stress from workplace hostility caused her to give birth to her third child on the sidewalk. Yampierre, a 15 year veteran of the department, said in her suit that she had to undergo emergency surgery because of complications from the birth, that’s when she knew she’d had enough.
Yampierre continues to report to the BPD while her lawsuit against her workplace continues. Although she has over a decade of experience as a sergeant, she said she feels powerless.
“We all love our job as police officers. That’s why we stayed,” she said in an interview with NBC News. “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.”
“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?” Donna Maria Lewis, the attorney representing the four women, said. “At what point will there be accountability and oversight?”
The BPD has not made any official statement regarding the lawsuits, saying in an email that officials are not permitted to talk publicly about pending litigation.