Fe­male Philly po­lice of­fi­cers reach deal over feared ret­ri­bu­tion

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / STATE NEWS - By Maryclaire Dale

PHILADEL­PHIA — Two fe­male po­lice of­fi­cers whose sex­ual ha­rass­ment law­suit led Philadel­phia’s po­lice com­mis­sioner to re­sign have reached a tem­po­rary agree­ment with the city in­volv­ing their fears of ret­ri­bu­tion.

The women say their com­plaints of be­ing phys­i­cally and ver­bally ha­rassed by su­per­vi­sors and col­leagues were ig­nored by depart­ment brass. One ac­cuses out­go­ing Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross of fail­ing to help be­cause she had bro­ken off a two-year af­fair with him in 2011. Ross, in his first pub­lic com­ments Wed­nes­day, de­nied re­tal­i­at­ing against any­one.

The women, in a law­suit filed Fri­day, say that since rais­ing com­plaints they’ve been as­signed ro­tat­ing shift work, given un­de­sir­able jobs, ha­rassed over ef­forts to pump breast milk and suf­fered stress-re­lated med­i­cal prob­lems.

Just last week, Mayor Jim Ken­ney had called Ross the na­tion’s best po­lice com­mis­sioner af­ter he helped ne­go­ti­ate dur­ing a nearly eight-hour hostage stand­off that left six of­fi­cers shot and wounded.

Speak­ing out­side po­lice head­quar­ters Wed­nes­day, Ross said his abrupt res­ig­na­tion was com­pletely vol­un­tary and he has “never sought ret­ri­bu­tion on a per­son, per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally.” He did not com­ment on the law­suit specif­i­cally.

“My love for this city has com­pelled me to make a de­ci­sion that is big­ger than me,” he said. “Given the cir­cum­stances I just thought for the greater good of all cit­i­zens of Philadel­phia, the fine of­fi­cers here and the mayor, that it would be bet­ter if I just moved along.”

Ken­ney noted a sex­ual ha­rass­ment pre­ven­tion pol­icy and ef­forts to pre­vent work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment were im­ple­mented a year ago.

“While rolling out a new pol­icy un­der­stand­ably takes time, I do not be­lieve the Po­lice Depart­ment has taken the nec­es­sary ac­tions to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing cul­tural is­sues that too of­ten neg­a­tively im­pact women — es­pe­cially women of color,” Ken­ney, a Demo­crat, said in a state­ment.

Ross, who is black, joined the depart­ment in 1989 and had served as com­mis­sioner since Jan­uary 2016.

The law­suit, in which Ross and the city are among the de­fen­dants, was filed by a cor­po­ral and an of­fi­cer, one black, the other black His­panic. The women’s civil lawyer, Ian Bryson, said they had not ex­pected Ross to re­sign.

“If that’s what it takes to shed light on this is­sue, then we see it as a win for work­ing peo­ple,” Bryson said.

The law­suit said when one of the women told Ross she had been sub­jected to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment, he re­sponded brusquely.

“Com­mis­sioner Ross de­clined to act on her re­port, and in­stead sug­gested, ‘So why don’t you just or­der his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face of­fi­cer,’ ” the law­suit al­leged.

The law­suit al­leges dis­crim­i­na­tion, a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment, re­tal­i­a­tion and other counts. It says the women “have suf­fered con­tin­u­ous and on­go­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion by both co-work­ers and su­per­vi­sors,” in­clud­ing grop­ing, sex­ual com­ments and sex­ual ad­vances, and that they faced re­tal­i­a­tion for com­plain­ing about it.

The As­so­ci­ated Press gen­er­ally does not iden­tify peo­ple who say they are vic­tims of a sex­ual as­sault, such as grop­ing, un­less they have pub­licly iden­ti­fied them­selves.

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