Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Female officers claim sex discrimination

July 31, 2004


— Four female police officers are suing the Wichita Police Department, claiming they were repeatedly discriminated against at work because they are women.

The suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court seeks class action status to represent other current and past female officers. It said women have been overlooked for desirable assignments, promotions, training and bonuses and that their complaints have gone unresolved.

"These women put their lives on the line for the citizens of this city everyday and they deserve equal treatment," Lawrence Williamson Jr., the attorney representing the officers, said.

Police spokeswoman Janet Johnson said neither she nor Police Chief Norman Williams could comment on the suit. Mayor Carlos Mayans and Gary Rebensdorf also said they had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

"I've had a number of contacts with the women officers, and I've never heard any of them complain," said Bob Martz, a city councilman for five years.

Much of the 31-page suit makes broad accusations of gender-based bias in the department, including claims that female officers who wear makeup are the target of male officers' snide comments.

The complaint also alleges a male officer told a plaintiff he raped a woman, then exposed himself to the officer. In another case, the suit claims a male officer asked a female colleague on a date, then showed up at her house screaming when she refused. In both instances, the suit says the department was apprised of the situations but did nothing.

Williamson said the suit could come to include hundreds of women who have worked for the department in the last decade.

As of July 1, department records show 71 of Wichita's 644 commissioned officers were women. There was one deputy chief among them, plus four lieutenants, a sergeant, 11 detectives and 54 officers.

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