Two officers who formerly worked at the Internal Affairs Bureau at D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department have filed a lawsuit, which alleges they were harassed, bullied and ultimately pushed out of the department because they are Black women.
It’s the third suit filed against the department alleging discrimination against Black women since September.
The lawsuit said there was an effort to remove African-American women from Internal Affairs while promoting the preferential treatment of white officers.
Senior Officer Felicia Carson, a 29-year D.C. police officer, was terminated in 2019. She told WTOP that
superiors told her it was due to poor performance reviews.
“My termination was unlawful; it was retaliation,” Carson said. “My performance rating was false; it was inaccurate. It was retaliation from me using family leave.”
Carson’s daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia, and she took leave to care for her. She claimed that the use of family leave led to her poor performance ratings, and said two white officers also used family leave with no effect on their rating.
She said Internal Affairs Bureau leadership also forced her out because of a case that Carson investigated in which a white male officer was accused of using excessive force against a young Black man.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer grabbed the young man by the throat and arrested him under false pretenses of resisting arrest. Carson said body camera footage showed the officer lied about the incident.
She said her investigation ultimately concluded that the officer engaged in serious misconduct, and she thought he should be fired. The U.S. attorney declined to prosecute the case, and Carson said she was terminated before the offending officer’s disciplinary review board.
“The fact that [they] decided ‘I don’t want you here because I don’t need you to testify in this white officer’s case of violating the Black young man’s rights,’ is unacceptable,” Carson said.
Carson also alleges in the lawsuit that Black officers faced harsher punishments compared to white officers, and that white officers received favoritism in assignments and other duties.
“I think [they] terminated me because I fought it, because I used my voice,” said Carson.
Carson said she is not looking to be reinstated on the police force but would like financial compensation.
Civilian Agent Lisa Burton is also a plaintiff in the case. She was not fired, but now works as a compliance specialist in the Firearms Registration Bureau.
“Some of my colleagues told me it was a career suicide and I had a healthy amount of fear being here but I’m more fed up and fearful,” Burton told WTOP. She said the Internal Affairs Bureau was rife with “unchecked emboldened behavior … the racism, the sexism, the marginalization of Black women, the discriminatory practice.”
Burton said she was forced out of the department after several complaints.
“I kept calling the white males on the discrimination; I called the racist agents racists, and I told them that their comments were inappropriate,”
She said she saw white officers making racist jokes about Black men and racist T-shirts being passed around the department.
“It is a toxic workplace for Black women who are willing to speak up,” said Pam Keith, the lawyer representing the two women. “We’re looking for real solutions that are going to address this from a systematic perspective, not just nibbling around the edges.”