Cadets sue DC police, alleging harassment and retaliation

Three Black former D.C. police cadets are filing suit against the department accusing a sergeant under scrutiny of retaliating against them for participating in an internal investigation.

The lawsuit comes days after a massive class-action lawsuit against the department alleged racial and gender discrimination in its practices. The cadets allege mistreatment and a chilling effect that essentially pushed them out of the department.

D.C. police didn’t renew the cadets’ contracts, and now, the cadets say, they can’t find work.

“Since I was young, being a police officer was my dream job … I just wanted to be someone that can be a mentor, an advocate for the city, and things like that. And the cadet program was the start of me doing what I wanted to do,” Remani Wideman told WTOP.

After graduating from the University of D.C. and joining the police academy, Wideman said, she was thriving in the D.C. police cadet program until she was asked to participate in an internal investigation into Sgt. Deidre Whitaker, who was alleged to have had a party allowing underage drinking that Wideman said she didn’t attend.

Her attorney, Pamela Keith, said that because of their participation, Wideman and two other cadets were retaliated against.

“It was everything from harassment — minor disciplinary actions — to actually putting them on an assignment where they got to sit in a building eight hours a day and do nothing, learn no policing whatsoever. And they were required to report, to do nothing, day after day for months on end,” Keith said.

D.C. police did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Keith also said that Whitaker, who has since retired from D.C police, called Wideman last week and threatened both her and her family: “threatened her life, told her that she knew where she lived and that she was ‘going to F her up,'” Keith said. “This young plaintiff of mine has two small children at home. And as you can imagine, she was incredibly disturbed by this phone call. She told her mother about it.”

Wideman’s mother, Keisha Wideman, then called the former sergeant, according to Keith, who played audio from the recorded phone call between the two women at a press conference Tuesday.

Wideman said she suffers from stress-induced headaches and is concerned about getting another job to support her family. She said she reapplied at D.C. Police and at the Prince George’s County’s Police Department to be a police officer.

“It’s like, where do I go now? I’m still young. … You ruined my life, basically,” Wideman said.

In response to the lawsuit, the NAACP local chapter president Akosua Ali wrote a letter on behalf of more than a half-dozen organizations addressed to the mayor, the D.C. Council and Police Chief Robert Contee calling for change.

“We, the undersigned organizations, Black women, and the men who love and support Black women, stand in solidarity with these Black women and women across this country that speak about the abuse they have endured. We will not accept dismissal of their pain or allow these allegations to go without recourse,” Ali wrote.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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