With Rank Comes Privilege…Part 11 The unexpected, the win and why you should care

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS…

Patricia and I got jobs. 

Police jobs.  She was hired first, and he was so impressed with her he asked if the “other” officer was any good and needing a job.  We found the one person that would give us a chance.  We did such a good job, he gave us more responsibilities.  Our new Chief started receiving phone calls urging him to fire us.  He had a little fun with it. He did news interviews telling reporters that we were the best officers he had ever had and thank you to Grand Rapids for training them so well (this irked GRPD).  Then, when it came time for the trial, he told us since it was on days we had to work, we would have to wear our uniforms and report directly to work after court was done.  The City of Grand Rapids/GRPD was mad.  They went after him too.  The SGT (GCJR) who had been after the Chief job for years was unhappy.  A local told me that many Chief’s had come and gone, but GCJR was always the only one left standing, and somehow always came out smelling like a rose.  He got into our department emails.  He badmouthed us to the Chief (Renee said this, Pat said this/He lied).  He told Pat that I had asked for her shifts (UNTRUE).  He told the Chief we were fighting over each others’ shifts (UNTRUE).  We didn’t have any idea this was happening until Pat asked me why I wanted her shifts, wasn’t I getting enough hours?  I said, what?! I never asked for your shifts!  We smelled a rat disguised as a rose.  And his behavior didn’t change until another more crafty and better looking rat got him fired and replaced him.

SGT GCJR had learned from his dad.  His father was a police officer in a  nearby city. GCJR rode along with his dad.  He told us his dad (GC) would yell and scream at people and treat them badly.  He also told us that his father always said, Don’t do what I do, do what I say.

The SGT was mad because he went to school with people who got jobs at GRPD, but he didn’t.  He told us he hadn’t passed the background, (or was it the Psych?).  He was in one of the GRPD officer friend’s wedding. They were in his.  He was talking to them about us and them to him.  We hadn’t even worked with those GRPD officers that much! There were 400 officers, 4-5 areas of the City and 3 shifts as well as administrative positions.   When I went into the Detective unit, I never met any of the new people who started out on nights for years until they switched shifts!

Our Chief lost his job.  The SGT finally got him.  But our Chief sued and settled out of court with that municipality.  He was the only person with the guts to give us a chance, and we delivered for him.  We solved cases, mentored other officers.  The SGT was not  happy and undermined our efforts from the beginning while trying to pretend to be everyone’s friend, but trying to pit them against each other.  Karma, or another Rat got him, eventually.

FEDERAL TRIAL

During the trial, The City depicted us as dangerous, put pictures of us up on the courtroom screen with pictures of handguns super-imposed over us and pointing into the air. As If we would go off and shoot up the town at any moment.  We were just glad they used some decent pictures of us.  It seemed whenever we were winning, nice pictures of us appeared in the newspaper, when we were down they put in the worst pictures of us they could find.

In court, the first City Psychologist, “Dr. Pete” finally admitted he added “drama” to Patricia’s report, he thought it was funny, but the way he did it, turned the event she received a commendation for, into a crime.

The City’s second Psychologist, Dr. Tony, continually claimed that we didn’t take “responsibility” for our “shortcomings” (this was also said about me to Chief HD by “Woody” after I complained about him).  When we pointed out that Dr. Tony had our documents switched (pats in my evaluation, and mine in hers) he blamed his secretary.

Dr Tony was asked if he was friends with Dr. Pete, the First City Psychologist. He said no. Patricia’s attorney produced a copy of Dr. Tony’s vanity book, and pointed out the forward which read, I want to thank my friend and mentor Dr. Pete.

Dr. Tony tried to explain this by saying well you know, we’ve run into each other at conferences and stuff so we are not “friends” but “friends”.

The icing on the cake came from my attorney.  She got up and asked Dr. Tony, Do you remember the Union Steward introducing you to my client before her evaluation as she gestures at me.  Tony nods vigorously, “Yes, yes I do.”  And do you remember after going into the conference room asking her if she preferred to be called “Pat, Patty or Patricia?”  Do you remember what my client said?  He shakes his head no.  My attorney says, you don’t remember her saying, “My name is Renee’?”  The whole court room burst out laughing.  It was the most satisfying, comedic thing I had ever seen!!

Needless to say we won.  The Jury doubled our damages.

Several months later the judge overturned the Jury’s decision.  This rarely, if ever, happens.

We appealed.

The appeals court overturned the Judge.  We had won again.

The judge reduced the award and thinking he was being “fair” gave the City two options.

  1. You can re-instate them to their jobs
  2. You can pay them according to the union contract as if they were working but they don’t come into work.

WRAP UP   

The city chose option 2.  We are not allowed into the Police Department.  Our lockers are still padlocked with our belongings in them sending a very clear message to all other women at the police department.  They take taxes out of our paychecks, even though we are not residents, and we do not do any work for or in the City of Grand Rapids (more on this tax issue later).

CONCLUSION

Early on in this whole process, I asked another officer how she was doing.  It seemed like she was always in trouble.  She wasn’t perfect, but who is?  I felt badly for her and so many others (it was my goal to help any new people as much as possible and not treat them like most new people were treated).  The Captain had it in for her.  She eventually switched shifts to get away from him because he kept writing her up constantly.  It was so bad, that in response to me asking how she was doing, she told me that she did not care who they were picking on, as long as it wasn’t her.

PROBLEM

Apathy about injustice is a real problem.  Any and all  injustice!  Just because you think it won’t affect you, it will, at some point: If not you, your mother, your sister, your daughter and the men in their lives.  We cannot allow evil people to do evil things.  We don’t need that criminal 5% in charge.  Whether it be a governmental agency, a business or any other organization.  There is strength in numbers.  It started with the 14 of us, word around the department was that they were going to put us all off on a mental.  When the two of us filed the Federal suit it kept the department from doing the same to the others.

I would like to know how they would have explained the contagious nature of Personality Disorders at GRPD.

WOMEN, I’m talking to you when I say we have to stop competing with each other for jobs, men, recognition.  We have to support each other.  We are supposed to be on the same team.  There should not be a Queen bee, and if you wonder what I am referring to google Queen Bee Syndrome.

Men, you need to speak up when you see a woman or any other person being mistreated.  Remember, your voice seems to carry more weight than ours.  These women could turn out to be your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughters.

Those of you in positions that give you power or authority, you need to realize that when you oppress you are contributing to keeping our entire country from unity.  Some of you hold the very livelihood and lives of others in your hands.  Those of you who enjoy this will pay the piper.  Karma will get you.  Beware the corrupting nature of power.  My oldest daughter got picked on and teased at school because her mother was “crazy.”  It was in all the papers, on the tv news stations.  My family and close friends knew better, a few of my neighbors knew better, but most people didn’t.  Even my own Union Steward made a comment to another Plaintiff after I was out on leave, “But she was found unfit for duty?!”  The other girl looked at him and told him, “Yeah, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you.”

Our case has set precedence and has helped others in this situation.   We on the other hand, can’t get part-time or full-time jobs in our own field, no matter how much time, money, or effort we put into it.  Even though I may not ever get another police job, I have the respect, of my family, my friends as well as officers I used to work with and for. No one can call me a coward, and there is no room for cowardice in police work.

We have received calls from across the country from other female officers who have had the same thing happen to them.  I called the National FOP!  They acknowledged it was an upward trend to use Fitness For Duty Evaluations to get rid of employees who complain, but have not done anything about it.

Why should any of this matter to you?  You may be asked at some point in your life or careers to do something unethical, or immoral or just plain wrong.  You need to recognize these occasions and do what is right.  There may be far-reaching ramifications of your behavior, so make sure your intentions are ethical.  Your actions could protect or subject you or your organization to expensive liability.

Martin Niemoller was a Protestant Minister.  He spent time as a prisoner in concentration camps during the holocaust.

Martin Niemoller said, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I add this, as human beings we are all supposed to be on the same side.

With Rank Comes Privilege…Part 10…INSURANCE CANCELLED

BRAIN SURGERY/CLEVELAND CLINIC/INSURANCE CANCEL/TACTICS

A number of tactics were used to cause us to cave or fold or crawl into a hole, move away, fall apart, go crazy, curl up and die or cry…

But they mistook us women for weaklings…

These tactics consisted of intimidation, trash pulls (to find illegal activity), releasing our addresses to the media, releasing HIPPA protected information to others in the police department (Dr. Pete’s reports were passed around, but not the favorable passing ones), we were not allowed to take the SGT’s test, they put us on paid leave, they stopped our pay, when we applied for unemployment they told the unemployment agency we were still “job-attached” so we had to fight our unemployment denial (successfully i might add), when we tried to get other jobs prospective employers were told we were unfit for duty.  Why?  No money = no attorneys.

During all of this, Rachael’s condition became life-threatening, I was sleeping on the floor of her room each night because she would seize and choke or stop breathing. She was scheduled to go to Cleveland Clinic for an evaluation and possible surgery. I had to ask the judge for a postponement of an upcoming hearing that conflicted with the timing of the appointment.  I told my new attorney that I didn’t want to give the reason, because GR would use it.  We went in front of the judge and had to reveal why, with the City Attorneys present.  The Judge granted the postponement on Friday.  I received a notice of cancellation of our health insurance 3 days later on Monday March 29th, effective April 1st.  This is illegal.  You can’t cancel a person’s insurance without notice or the option to have COBRA coverage.  They didn’t cancel Patricia’s insurance because it wouldn’t have harmed her.

My husband (we got married in 2003 remember!) put us on his health insurance. Rachael qualified for Children’s Special Heath Care Services through the County (they help with travel expenses and accommodations) and my attorney wrote a scalding letter (is this a new retaliatory action?).  By the time her surgery was actually preformed, Rachael was back on my insurance, had my husband’s, and we had assistance with travel and our costs for accommodations.  We stayed in the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland.  Ronald McDonald Houses across the country have helped so many families in similar situations.

On July 4th, 2004 the Doctors at Cleveland Clinic shaved her head and, Rachael had a hemispherectomy.  It saved her life. She is now doing quite well!  You can read about her in some of my other blog posts.

We had gotten jobs here and there.  I had one a few months after they “put us off”.  i got hired by Spectrum Health Security.  Why?  Because they knew me.  I was a regular as a Police Officer.  The hospital was in my patrol area.  I came in and took assault reports, domestic reports, murders, car accidents.  Not once, did I ever treat anyone in the security department like a rent-a-cop.  I always figured we were on the same team.  That’s why they hired me.  I was working there after being put off work.  GRPD Officers would come in to do the same as I had been doing as a police officer.  Some (very few) would talk to me.  Others wouldn’t.  Most ignored me, pretended they didn’t see me, or quickly moved through (uncomfortableness!) and then left out another door when they were finished.  One particular SGT (yes you TMcG) who’s wife works at the hospital came in one night, to visit or eat dinner with his wife.  As he walked by he got a nasty smirk on his face.  My hospital co-workers saw it too.  One of the very nicest, sweetest V.A’s (Visitor Assistants, they helped sick people from the cars into the E.R. etc) that worked there with me came over and said “Wow! What an Asshole!”  I had never heard her talk like that.  She was mad for me!

I never knew they had to put up with that kind of stuff until it happened to me.  It had never crossed my mind to behave like that.

Then something unexpected happened…

Patricia and I got police jobs. 

With Rank Comes Privilege…Part 9 DEBTORS COURT

We lost the State Case.

Why? The Judge wouldn’t let the jury hear about our adverse job actions (the proof for discrimination). The jury didn’t know Pat and I had been walked out the back door.  As far as the jury knew, we were still working.  We were not allowed to mention it or discuss our job loss in any way, shape or form.  We were not allowed to talk about our “punishment”.  The judge also took the legal definition of similarly situated to the extreme, so we were not allowed to bring up comparisons between our circumstances and guys who were doing the same job.

The City’s Attorney’s began threatening to saddle our Attorneys with fees and costs (and the sanctions) to get them to settle the State and Federal cases together and demanded they drop Patricia as a client.   They asked me to agree to settle with the other plaintiffs (The State Case) and drop Patricia.  When I said no, they abandoned both of us and withdrew as our attorney’s.  How could I settle, hang my co-plaintiff out to dry, and allow them to muddy my reputation and name and be permanently labeled “crazy” when it was a lie!?  I would never be able to get another job!

They threatened the Psychologists and Psychiatrist we had hired telling them them they could lose their licenses because they were practicing “Police Psychology” without the proper license. The Psychiatrist and Psychologist we hired, paid for their own lawyers and fought with us. They both paid a heavy cost for it.  We will always be grateful to them for sticking to their guns, being honest and ethical and not running off like cowards.

The State Case was settled by the other Plaintiffs, but we appealed (advantage of a two-fronted attack). Because we appealed the Judge stated in chambers that Pat and I would have to pay more money than the others (Patricia and our former attorney’s were present in Chambers when the Judge said this, and that is exactly what did happen.  It’s funny, but our attorney’s were not required to pay any part of the sanctions).  When The Judge put it on the official court record, he said it was because we wasted more of the court’s time.  When the Judge reinstated the fine/sanctions he told our former attorneys, but we were not notified.  Because no one told us, we had no idea we had a “bill” to pay.

We then get dragged into debtors court for being delinquent….

DEBTORS COURT

Because we were not notified we made no payment arrangements.

We were shocked and surprised when we were ordered to bring all our financial records and dragged into debtor’s court.  They wanted to know if we had any jewelry, valuables or if we owned other items of value.  We immediately started sending them payments while trying to negotiate payment plans. I sent them numerous payments for months, writing letters to negotiate an amount.  They always responded that it wasn’t enough money, yet they cashed the checks.  The other plaintiffs that settled were allowed to have $50 deducted from each of their paychecks until it was paid.  We were not allowed to make $50 payments.

Debt collectors are not allowed to do this, but the City of Grand Rapids was!!

The Judge then allowed them to garnish us, even though we were paying.  He signed the order!!  They cleaned out my checking account three days before Christmas.  The money in my account included my pay and my daughter Rachael’s Social Security Disability.  Social Security Disability is exempt from garnishment by law.  I had to borrow money to keep a couple checks from bouncing and I couldn’t buy Christmas presents for my kids.  We fought it in court ourselves and got most of the money back but it took months.  Unbeknownst to Pat they also put a Lien on her house.  She later had to fight to get this removed.

By this time, we were not receiving any pay from the city, they had blocked our unemployment which we had to fight for, we were working part-time jobs for less pay and they were trying to starve us out…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 8

The Problems with Dr. Pete’s report(s)???

  • NO PRECIPITATING EVENT
  • Subjective/One-Sided Input
  • Hard of hearing?/Inept?/or Biased?
  • Made Assumptions/Mind Reader?
  • Ignored Science/Personality Disorders
  • Ignored the Whole Picture
  • Member of IACP-International Association of Chiefs of Police (Management Organization)
  • Let MPA/APA Membership Lapse/Ethics requirements
  • Marketed Self as “Police Psychologist”- There is No “Certification” in “Police Psychology”
  • Dual Relationship/Accepted Client- Not always wrong
  • Accepted Large Amount $ for Performing

Dr Pete’s Primary Income 1996 came from doing Fitness For Duty Evaluations/Pre-Employment Evaluations

Dr. Pete sold his “practice” in 2003 – He advertised that the only requirement to take over his practice = Licensed Psychologist

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS?

  • IMPROPER REFERRAL
  • Ignored numerous other reports
  • City Declined Pete’s original suggestion for referral
  • Patricia and Renee’ still not back to work at GRPD
  • Tactic has been used across the country
  • National FOP/Union ignoring this problem
  • Psychologists accepting these referral$

Patricia had the following evaluations (7)

  • Dr. Pete: Grand Rapids City Psychologist-> unfit
  • Dr. Tony: “Friend of Pete” Grand Rapids Hired Psychologist-> unfit
  • Dr. Larry: Plaintiff Hired Psychiatrist -> Fit
  • Dr. Mark: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit
  • Dr. Mark: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit
  • Dr. Nancy: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit  (evaluator for CHP and LAPD)
  • Dr. Dave: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit

Renee’s (9)

  • Dr. Pete: Grand Rapids City Psychologist-> unfit
  • Dr. Tony: “friend of Pete” Grand Rapids Hired Psychologist-> unfit
  • Dr. Larry: Plaintiff Hired Psychiatrist -> Fit
  • Dr. Mark: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist ->Fit
  • Dr. Mark: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit
  • Dr. Nancy: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist ->Fit (evaluator for CHP and LAPD)
  • Dr. Dave: Plaintiff Hired Psychologist -> Fit
  • Dr. Patrick: Appellate Attorney Hired -> Fit
  • Dr. Tom: Spectrum Health Pre-employ-> Fit

I am certain that Patricia and I are the most “shrinked” and “certified sane” individuals in the State of Michigan.  Why would GRPD ignored all the additional evaluations?

We received copies of the tests we took for “Dr. Pete” during discovery. When they were analyzed it was found we had passed those too.  “Dr Pete” just didn’t use the results from the tests he gave us!?  Now why would a “Police Psychologist” do $uch a thing?

So even though we are certified sane, we lose the state case…

 

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 7

WE FILED OUR SECOND LAWSUIT FOR RETALIATION IN FEDERAL COURT

Word around the office was that they were going to pick us off one-by-one using Fitness For Duty Evaluations. The act of Patricia and I filing this federal Case effectively prevented the City from doing the same to the other plaintiffs in the State Case.   They did not want all the Plaintiffs in Federal court too.

I sure would have liked to hear their explanation for the apparently contagious nature of personality disorders.  Funny, I haven’t heard of anyone else catching it since.

These are not isolated events

Patricia and I are not the first women this has happened to.  It was well known that being sent to the department Psychologist was a punishment.  With the guys there would be some sort of incident, or “precipitating event” they would be sent to the psychologist get two weeks off then be allowed to return to work.  I can’t think of a single instance of a male officer at my department being sent for no reason.  The guys didn’t usually lose their jobs. All the women did.  This has happened at other police departments across the country and other types of organizations.

Back to our psych evaluations:

Our initial appointments involved taking fill-in-the-bubble tests.  We were not going to be passive/reactive, sheep led to slaughter.  We decided to fight.  We knew that they had gotten rid of other women the same way, so we came up with a plan of action.

When I went to my initial appointment with the city psychologist, Dr. Pete, I went in wired with a tape recorder.  In fact, I taped all my appointments with Dr. Pete.  The first day, he had me come in and gestured toward some tables so I went over and sat down.  He then told me to sit on the other side of the table in a different chair.  I obliged.  There was a comic hanging on the wall that I could now see from this position.  It had a picture of a woman in a skirt with her hands over her head and two male officers with their guns drawn.  The caption read something like, “We just got the results of your Psychological exam.”  I laughed sarcastically and asked him, Oh, is this for my benefit?  He quickly took it down after smirking, “Oh, does this offend you? I thought it was humorous.”  I told him it was probably inappropriate to have posted in an office that does Fitness For Duty Evaluations.

He gave me 5 tests to take.  One was a pre-employment test, a personality test, another was an intelligence test and with a couple others.  He went into another room.  I quietly read out loud the titles and versions of each test so I would get it on my tape recorder.  Each time we were scheduled with the Dr. Pete, we would make a second appointment with two others, for the same day, a Psychiatrist and a Forensic Psychologist.  We would then take exactly the same tests again.

I went back to “Dr. Pete” another day for the interview portion of the evaluation.  He would ask me questions. and I would answer them.  He would then stare at me in silence expecting, what?  Most of the time he would shake his head disapprovingly while looking at the papers on his desk the city had given him, but I wasn’t allowed to see them.

I told him about my shooting incident, about Lt. Woody, and about my Captain throwing away my commendation letter (requesting a combat medal).  Dr. Pete said, “Well if this all really happened I’m sure it would have been investigated.”  What he didn’t know was that the saying around the department was “With Rank Comes Privilege.” Commanders were rarely held accountable for their actions. 

When he produced his report, he completely mis-characterized things I told him, outright turned things and left  important things out (Remember! I taped them all).  He interjected comments about what  I was thinking, how I perceived his comments as if he could read my mind!

He called me apathetic and pessimistic, and dependent.

My family members and friends outright laughed at this assessment saying, well he certainly wasn’t around you much now was he.

“Dr. Pete” told GRPD it appears that Renee’ has some sort of personality disorder, most likely some sort of paranoid personality disorder.  Not taking into account organizational culture, differences in men and women’s psychological responses or even how I navigated the world outside the police department.  He even ignores the fact that Personality Disorders show up in adolescence, not after years of being an adult without one, unless there is a head injury of some sort.  I had sustained no such injury.

“Dr Pete”, not certified in PTSD evaluation, goes on to comment on the possibility of PTSD. He attempts to outline the diagnostic criteria and remarks that he is sure it is not present in my case.  He goes on to suggest that my condition is not treatable, but that medication might be helpful (take note:  Psychologists can not prescribe medication.  Psychiatrists can because they are actually Medically Licensed).

“Dr. Pete” then then goes on to criticizes the report from the Psychiatrist I had sought treatment from more than a year earlier.  I went to take care of early emerging PTSD symptoms related to my on-duty shooting.  I sought my own treatment, paid cash, and it was resolved without any performance issues or intervention needed from my employer.

“Dr. Pete” did not use or reveal results of all the tests we took, but Patricia and I were not surprised when we were both found unfit for duty with the same un-treatable “diagnosis” even though we have very different personalities.

We received copies of other FFDE’s in discovery that were done on female officers at GRPD before ours. It was interesting to find that ours were cookie cutter to theirs.  It was almost like he had a template and he just inserted the names.

THE PROBLEMS WITH DR PETE’S REPORT(S)…next time

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 6

The intimidation effort gets more serious…

I started getting more cases than my partner. They found out I copied our case logs.  They started giving my partner more cases to catch up his numbers with mine. When he came in and saw new cases on his desk he would swear loudly for several minutes. This did not make me feel good, but that was the point.

Because of all the things we were experiencing our attorney insisted we ask for injunctive relief.  It ended up turning into a two week hearing.

In response to our testimony about these incidents, the judge mocked us, doubted our honesty, and sanctioned (fined) us.  This emboldened the City even more, so things got worse.  The actual trial had not yet started.  The judge set the sanctions aside until the end of the rest of the trial, just meaning he delayed the enforcement of them.

THE ULTIMATE RETALIATION: turn in your badge and gun

First they came for Patricia…

On January 18, 2002 Patricia was working a short day then leaving for a 10 day vacation.

Dispatch tried calling her on the radio, but she had already gone out of service.  When they started paging her on the building’s P.A. system we all knew something was up.  They never used that thing.  Patricia was walked up to Internal Affairs (I.A.).  They asked her to surrender her gun and badge.  She asked for what reason?  They said they didn’t know and wouldn’t tell her a reason.  They ordered her to report to the Police Department Psychologist on the following Monday.  Pat said, nope, I’m on vacation.  She then asked them if they were now denying her vacation.  They said no, but was she was going to be in town?  Patricia responded “I am on vacation and where I am and what I’m doing is none of your business.”  They rescheduled her appointment and later notified her of the change.

The rest of us girls all knew something bad was happening. I went up to Internal Affairs (I.A.) on the 2nd floor to look for her.  I made an excuse to talk to the  Internal Affairs LT.  Chief H.D. saw me from two floors above from the atrium stairs.  He was standing there looking down.

There was no sign of Patricia.  I went and told the others that I didn’t know where she was.  I got a phone call from Liz telling me they had already escorted her out the back door.  No one else saw what was happening.  The building was empty for lunch and I had not left for lunch trying to make sure she was ok.

Then they came for me…   

I was an afterthought.  My Lt. walked me up to Internal Affairs.  By this time, I already knew what was happening, but I didn’t let on.  I refused to go in until I had a Union Steward.  I was told I didn’t need one.  I persisted in my stance. If I am being dragged into Internal Affairs then I definitely needed a Union Steward.  It took a while for them to find one.

Once I was in the Internal Affairs Office,  The Lt I had just been talking to was there.  His face was pale.  He handed me a letter ordering me to go for a Fitness For Duty Evaluation (FFDE) with the department psychologist, “Dr. Pete.”  I read it and asked, “Where is this coming from? He responded, “The Chief”.  It was apparent it was a last minute rush job.  The order had the Chief’s name on it but was signed by the IA Lt.  Chief H.D. couldn’t even do his own dirty work.  Lt. D.M. then asked me to surrender my gun and badge.

I looked around the room and loudly said to the five commanders present “You know this is bullshit.  It’s because of the lawsuit.”  They were all silent.  I had never raised my voice to any of them.

I turned over my badge and gun.  I unbuckled my belt and slid the whole belt off, leaving my gun holstered.  I slammed my belt, holstered gun (still attached to my belt yet facing the wall) and my badge onto the desk and shoved it away from me.  There was no danger to anyone.

MY CAPTAIN ducked into the corner of the room behind a plant while saying “Easy, easy”! I had heard rumor that he had run away as a coward during some sort of incident on the street, but that the document had been gleaned from his personnel file.  No one else in the room had cowered or hid behind a plant.  I looked at him and said, “REALLY?!”

Taking an Officer’s gun and badge is a big deal for a police officer and they knew this.  The job/the badge: It becomes a part of you.  I was escorted out the back door and told “Don’t come back.” FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN HAVING FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST MY DEPARTMENT.  Our lockers containing our belongings have been padlocked since that day and serve as a message to the other women.

With tears running down my face, I walked to my car.  I called Mike, the guy I had been dating for a couple years.  I told him what had happened.  I thought it would be the end of our relationship.  But he said, I’ll be right there.  He dropped everything he was doing and drove downtown.  Later, they changed my status from administrative leave to unpaid leave.  Mike told me, don’t worry, we are a team.  I will never let you or your kids starve.  I will never forget that.

We have been married since 2003.  I love that man…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 5

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Two female officer’s had been called “Losers” by their Captain.  When they asked him what he meant he told them to look in the mirror.

Christa was propositioned by the range officer. She turned him down.  He later ordered her to report to the range office where he told her he had to look at her gun.  He unloaded it took it apart put it back together, all the while telling a story about a woman who had made a sexual harassment complaint about a supervisor.  He then pointed the gun at her and asked her if she understood.  She understood that to mean keep your mouth shut or you’re dead.  When I was new, she told me never to go to the practice range alone, but would not tell me why.  I listened to her.  His nickname was Sgt Friendly.

He was allowed/encouraged to retire after a multitude of complaints about all the minority and women officers being sent back to remedial training even if they passed.

THINGS THAT HAPPENED AFTER WE FILED OUR LAWSUIT IN 2001/RETALIATION

A News crew showed up at one plaintiff’s house after they somehow got her address (she dropped out)

We were followed

City hired D&K to delve into our financials/backgrounds

Trash pulls

Started having trouble with our phone lines at home

Other current/former female employees and spouses wanted to join

One former female employee/officer called and visited our attorney to join.  Shortly after, she received threatening phone calls warning her there’d be trouble if she joined.  This caused our attorneys to feel that their phones were compromised or there was surveillance occurring.  She did not join.

Laura was repeatedly called in by the supervisor and reprimanded for ignoring her phone. She discovered someone was going through her desk, and turning her desk phone ringer off and unplugging her radio charger.

WHILE ALL THIS WAS HAPPENING

My Daughter, Rachael, was getting worse.  She was having hundreds of seizures a day and medication wasn’t helping.  When I needed to take her to the Neurologist, I was told I had one hour. Officers were usually allowed 2 hours for appointments. When the Dr. saw Rachael, it was determined she needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately.  I told the Dr. what had happened at work and that I was going to be in trouble.  She called the hospital social worker who brought me Family Medical Leave Act paperwork.  I thought only pregnant women could use it and only after they burned up all their sick and vacation time (well that’s how the department applied it, but that is not how the Act reads). I had never needed it or used it before.  Information about the Family Medical Leave Act was not posted at the Police Department. Ultimately, I only used it 4-5 days total for Rachael, but they couldn’t write me up for it.

Men who took time off for family or children issues were called great dads, told not to worry if they didn’t have enough banked time.  Fundraisers were held for them and their children.  They had wives at home. They received Officer of the year awards (due to their dedication to their work, not their families).  The union asked other officers to donate vacation time to them if they were running out.  I was a single parent with two daughters, one with Special Needs.  This was never done for me.

I started getting more cases than my partner. They found out I copied our case logs.  They started giving my partner more cases to catch up his numbers with mine. When he came in and saw new cases on his desk he would swear loudly for several minutes.

Because of  all the things we were experiencing our attorney insisted we ask for  injunctive relief.

In response to our testimony about these incidents, the judge mocked us, doubted our honesty, and sanctioned (fined) us.  This emboldened the City even more, so things got worse.  The actual trial had not yet started.  The judge set the sanctions aside until the end of the rest of the trial, just meaning he delayed the enforcement of them.

This was not even the worst…yet…

 

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 4

FRAN

I was in an on duty shooting.  It wasn’t my day to work.  I was working for another girl who couldn’t get the day off for a wedding, so we traded shifts. It was Saturday, and it was Sweetest Day.

The suspect, a woman, Fran, had depression issues.  She had tried to commit suicide in the past.   We don’t know what happened in the home prior to the incident, but we knew the relationship between her and her husband was not good.  During the evening, he left to go to the party store around the corner.  They were both heavy drinkers.  She grabbed her husband’s fully loaded Chinese SKS assault weapon from the closet, hopped in their car, parked under the highway facing towards the party store. This was just around the corner from their house.

I felt really bad for the poor soul that had just been released from Kent County Jail. He spent hours walking all the way home from the Kent County Jail to the West Side of Grand Rapids. As he was walking by, she started shooting at him.  He ran into a nearby gas station and the clerk called 911 for him.

I was nearby, and the second officer on scene.  Negotiation attempts by the first officer to get her to put down the weapon failed.  He kept trying.  All the responding officers were yelling on the radio.  This made it difficult to understand them.  I saw that there were a number of things that needed to be taken care of.  We had been warned of tunnel vision occurring during an incident like this, but I didn’t have it. I felt a calm assurance fall over me.  I asked dispatch in a calm voice to send officers to close down nearby roads, get people inside the nearby businesses (because they were outside gawking) and for everyone south of our position to take cover. All of our weapons were pointed in that direction.

The dispatcher later told me he realized everything was ok because I was there, I was calm and that had a calming effect on him.  The woman tentatively raised and lowered her weapon several times, just short of shouldering it, verbally refusing to comply.  Finally, she raised and shouldered the weapon, pointing it toward other officers. I was in good position to take the shot.  There were 5 of us that fired our weapons on Stocking St under the highway.  Three male and two female officers. Tina and I are the only two women in the history of the police department who have been involved in this type of incident while working at GRPD.

The entire incident from beginning to end took 11 minutes.  It felt like an eternity (yes, the slo-mo did happen).  We did not want to take her life, but we had no choice because she was going to take someone else’s.

We also later learned that a program on “Suicide by Cop” had run on a news program the night before.  We believe this was her end goal.

While we were still on the street in full uniform, they took our weapons as evidence. There had just been a training that said not to do this.  It left us like sitting ducks, no way to protect ourselves while in full uniform.  Our Policy and Procedure manual said that if we were in uniform we were to carry our weapon.  We were each taken to the Detective Unit and placed in a separate interrogation rooms.  They assigned us each an escort.  A new female officer was assigned to escort me to the police department and stay with me all night, even trips to the restroom. We were now the subjects of investigation in a homicide.

Woody, the training Lt. I had complained about was called in.  He entered the interrogation room, looked directly at the officer assigned to babysit me, and told her “Oh, we were worried about you” even though she wasn’t at the incident.  He didn’t say anything similar to me, but asked me if I was right or left-handed.  I told him right-handed.

He came back later with a temporary replacement gun.  I stuffed it in my holster and secured it.  I worked second shift, but didn’t get home until after third shift.  My babysitter had stayed the night when I called her and told her what happened.  She was awesome! (Thank you Jennifer M.S.).  I sent my young girls to school (they and their classmates would have no idea), and I started making phone calls to my family members and close friends so they would know I was ok when it all hit the news.  Then I went to bed, of course I couldn’t sleep.  My thoughts revolved around how it was textbook trained, how we did everything we were trained to do.  I was most worried about what the department would do, make us sacrificial lambs for politics sake?  I was less concerned about the public.  Many members of the public had witnessed the whole scenario.  One citizen even videotaped the whole thing (I am so glad he did, thank you!).  It showed we were honest in reporting what had happened and how the threat had become deadly requiring our actions.  The public wanted to know why the “Overkill.”

Well, here’s something to think about.  In a split second you had 5 people, in a position to do something, who came to exactly the same decision at the same time.   What are you gonna do? Hesitate and yell across the street to the other officers?  Hey! AJ! Are you gonna shoot?  Cause if you are then I won’t.  There’s no time to “take a poll”, and in fact that would have been deadly for a citizen or an officer.  The others had to take cover or didn’t have a shot.

We were placed on administrative leave until the prosecutor reviewed the case and cleared us.  We were sent to the shooting range, probably to be sure we wouldn’t freeze, and to get acquainted with our temporary replacement weapons.  I am right-handed.  The majority of people are.  This means the magazine release is under your thumb on your shooting hand. The one I was given was a lefty-gun. I discovered he had given me a left-handed gun. You don’t just find those laying around.  You either have to look for one on purpose or modify a weapon by switching the mag release button (under your thumb) to the other side.  I knew he had done it on purpose (I know this because he did it to another female officer, Cheri W).

Fortunately, I was proficient with my weapons and I didn’t have a safety issue because of it.  It could throw you off, Especially given the circumstances.  I knew immediately.  The others were able to practice while I waited for a range-officer to drive back to the Police Department Armory and get me a proper gun.

After the shooting, we all went through a group critical incident stress debriefing. The department did a good job with this.  Chief H.D. was present and told us he was honored to have us as officers and we had done a good job. My Female Captain praised me for my calmness on the radio, calling me phenomenal.  We were told to take time off and the prosecutor reviewed the case and declared we were justified in our actions.  It helped that a citizen had videotaped the entire incident.  A Female Sergeant wrote up a commendation letter requesting that the 5 of us be awarded combat medals.  When she submitted a copy to my Captain, he crumpled it up and threw it away, saying “Why would you commend anyone for killing someone.”  Even though we followed our training and did exactly what the department expected from us.  This is exactly the kind of behavior we came to expect and experienced on a regular basis from many of our Commanders.

Even after all this I jokingly told the girl I had worked for, “This is the last time I’m working for you!!  You are bad luck!”

TINA, the other female officer in the shooting ***name changed

Tina went back to her field training. She was pretty new, not from the area, and still in her probationary period.  They started giving her a hard time.  When Patricia heard what was happening, she confronted Tina’s trainer and asked him why,  He said, I was told to.  She reminded him of how bad he was when she had trained him.  She reminded him that he always got lost and couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag. She told him what he was doing was wrong.  Patricia had heard they (The Training Unit/Lt Woody) were going to get rid of Tina because now that she had been in a shooting, she would apply for disability down the road and the dept would have to pay her disability. Eventually She was told quit or be fired.  She quit.  No one wants a firing on their record.  She considered joining the suit but didn’t.

After we returned to work, Light duty and hidden from public view, Lt. Woody set up a meeting with me to discuss the complaint I had made about him.  He says “Now don’t you think, in light of this shooting you were involved in that it was good you had the extra training?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I said to him, I have no problem with training, I’ll go to all the training in the world, training is good, but this situation was handled badly by you and it was totally unnecessary for me to be treated that way.

They left me alone for a year or so.  I went in to detective unit/general case for better hours for my kids (someone else wanted out).  My male partner immediately put in for a different job.  I got a new male partner but his rudeness and behavior, screaming at suspects, caused me to go out on my own or borrow someone else.  He could be heard screaming at people but the supervisors never did anything, because he got confessions, solved cases.  I did too, but I never screamed at people.  You can catch more flies with honey…and I did.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 3

MARIAN **name changed**

M was an intern that applied for a recruit position.  As an intern she would take telephone and walk-in reports and write them up.  She did a great job.  When she was hired Woody told her she should have a plan B.  They then marked her down for her report writing (Huh??) and eventually had her so stressed out that she was told quit or be fired.  She quit.  She then joined the military and was so extraordinary, at the end of training, even though she was injured and couldn’t finish, her commander awarded her, her dress blues.  She never recovered from her injuries.  She died during the early stages of our first lawsuit. If she was exceptional in the military why wasn’t she good enough for GR?

LIZ **name changed**

Liz, was another police department intern that was hired as a recruit. She made it through academy like the others. In fact she was exceptional. During her field training her trainer required her to have 15 traffic stops a night (in a 10 hour shift) which included getting a Polaroid picture and thumb print.  There were many times a Sgt wasn’t available which meant waiting, and making the detained subject wait until a Sgt was available to bring over the photo/print kit.  This took a lot of time, resulted in her not making her quota and she was marked down.  Being an intelligent problem solver, she went and bought supplies and made her own kit, this angered her Training Officer.

Liz’s trainer told her that no one wanted her there.

She was coming in an hour early, leaving hours late and doing her trainers paperwork. She was single with two children and had to hire a live-in nanny.  She wasn’t getting any sleep, her hair was falling out.  They wore her down and gave her the quit or be fired speech.  She quit.  When we called to tell her about our suit, she immediately said, “I’m in!”

SAM **name changed**

SAM in B&E squad consistently given 2-3 times the number of cases her male partner was assigned and then berated for having so many open cases (her male partner was nice enough to recognize this and help her).  This is different than what happened to me.  She was later transferred to the Auto Squad because she didn’t want to go to Auto Squad.

PATRICIA

One night, the vice unit pulled over a black man and asked for a patrol car.  Patricia was sent.  Vice told her to search his car.  She asked “For what reason”.  They didn’t have one and he wasn’t under arrest.  They told her to do it anyway.  She refused.  The man asked her “Can they do that?”  She told him they can’t do that without a warrant, or without your permission and you don’t have to give it to them.  He said “No, you can’t search my car.”  They arrested him, handcuffed him, placed him in Patricia’s car, searched his car, didn’t find anything and left.  She was left to deal with the situation, calling dispatch to contact Vice to come back and deal with the situation. They ignored dispatch.  Patricia had to ask for a supervisor and complained about their behavior. The Supervisor asked her if she was making a formal complaint (crossing the thin blue line).  She replied, no, that is your job as a supervisor to correct these things.  Her supervisor told her just to release the man, and she did.  The Supervisor did nothing.  This is why she was called a bitch.  She followed the rules and the law.  Arresting, then un-arresting seemed to be a habit of some officers.  They never got in trouble for it.  One wonders what their police report looked like and how they justified probable cause after an illegal search.

THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME

When I worked the road on the West Side of Grand Rapids, I noticed one of the SGTs kept showing up or driving by my calls.  I didn’t think much of it because it was nothing new really. One night, I went to get dinner on Alpine, slightly out of our area (in the area where Fazoli’s is now).  It was a place we were allowed to go because at the time there were not many choices available to us. The SGT sent me a message.  It read, “Are you lost?”  I responded, “No, why do you ask??  He asked, “Where are you?”  I told him where I was.  He told me “You can’t eat there, it’s outside the city.  I asked him “Is this a new rule?”  He said, “You can’t go there.”  I responded “ok”, and left without eating.  Everyone else was still allowed to eat there, but I wasn’t.  I later found out he had been told to follow me around.

FIREARMS

During my initial firearms training at the department, I qualified as expert.  I was and continue to be very proficient with my handgun, shotgun and rifle.

We had to train and qualify with our firearms twice a year.  During one qualification course I was ordered back the next day.  This was not unusual for the women and minorities to be ordered back for remedial, it happened often, for the stupidest things.  But this time they told me I had to be there at 430 instead of my usual start time of 5pm.  

Not only was this unreasonable it was a contract violation.

I objected and notified SGT J that I couldn’t get there at 430 but I could make it by 5 (my normal shift start time) due to childcare. He didn’t think it would be an issue and called Woody on the phone in the range house. I was also in the range house and heard the conversation. Sgt J explained the situation, but Lt. Woody said, too bad she better be there at 430!  I scrambled trying to make alternate arrangements, which caused a number of major problems.

I barely got to the range at the time as I was ordered.  The day group wasn’t done yet and I had to wait 45 minutes for them to finish.  If I had been late after being ordered to be there at a certain time, I would have faced discipline.   Several days later I went directly to Chief H.D. and told him that I had believed him when he said he wanted to make GRPD a family friendly organization. I told him what happened and how it was unacceptable and a violation of our union contract to change my work hours without advance notice, not to mention just plain wrong.  He told me he would look into it. I knew Woody would be mad that I complained, but I was sick of it.

Two weeks later, I was in an on duty shooting.  It wasn’t my day to work.  I was working for another female officer who couldn’t get the day off for a wedding, so we traded shifts. It was Saturday, and it was Sweetest Day.

To be continued…

 

With Rank Comes Privilege: With Privilege, Power. Part 2

THE BEGINNING

In 1992 I became a single parent through divorce, of my two girls, Sarah, 5 and Rachael, 4.  I decided I needed more education and a better job to support us. I went back to school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College while working 3 part-time jobs and caring for my girls.  It was not easy.  Rachael has severe cognitive impairment, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.  But I did it with the help of family and friends. While attending KVCC, I saw an ad for police recruits and applied to GRPD.

IT STARTED AT HELLO/HIRE/MY EXPERIENCE

In one of my interviews I was asked the normal types of interview questions.  They also asked me if I was planning on having more children.  This was an embarrassing conversation and completely illegal.  I answered it not knowing at the time you can’t ask things like that.  They were aware that I had two daughters and that Rachael had medical conditions.  They were also well aware that I had been doing a good job of handling all my responsibilities.

I went through application/interview process, and was hired at age 27, which was older than most of the new hires.

The Psychological exam was uneventful, the questions were weird and unusual (in my opinion).  I’ve never taken another test like that one, although I have taken many many police exams. I passed without any problem.

At the medical exam they found out I had diabetes and they were not happy about it.  I provided a note from my Doctor who stated I managed it well and had no complications.  Due to ADA they could not rescind the job offer and I had already accepted it.  They probably figured I wouldn’t make it through but I did.

ADMINISTRATION

Under Chief W.H., things were mostly good.  He was a no-nonsense Chief and kept a tight rein on his command staff.

There were a number of controversies during his tenure.  A group of women and minority officers sued for discrimination. They sued over the subjectivity of evaluations which negatively affected assignments and promotions.  Chief W.H. called a meeting of his command staff.  He told them that under no circumstances were they to go after these individuals.  They were also told to prevent any such behavior by any other officers. Subsequent Chiefs did not do this.

They settled, and got their promotions.

After Chief W.H. retired, things changed. 

I loved my job.  But the small cracks that had existed started to become big problems after Chief W.H. retired.  The commanders he had kept in check were given more latitude and power under the new administration, Chief H.D.

The Training unit commander got rid of the veteran trainers in favor of younger less experienced officer that would follow orders without question. This was a problem.

New female officers were subjected to higher standards than their male counterparts. When they did meet expectations the bar was moved higher until they failed.

Female officers were routinely passed over for promotions in favor of males who did not test as well, or were under investigation for domestic assaults or other crimes.

Female officers did not get additional specialized training, assignments to other departments, or “Attaboys”.  What are Attaboys?   Attaboy’s were commendations. Female Officers  who recovered multiple stolen cars, or solved cases often did not get commended the same as or as often as the guys did.  I remember getting them once in a while.  One particular commendation was given to me by my Captain, but he gave it to me in private instead of in front of my peers at lineup, which was the usual custom.

At the range, all the trainers would stand behind the female officers.  Often, mistakes by the men were not noticed nor were they failed.  Women and minority officers were subjected to increased scrutiny and were routinely ordered back for remedial training even if they had passed!!

Lt. Woody would tell address new recruit classes.  He would say,  look around because some of you won’t be here at the end.  In one recruit training class he ordered everyone to stand in a circle and slap each other upside the head.  It was as if he believed that if you don’t bounce people or if someone doesn’t get hurt then you’re not doing your job if everybody passes.  It didn’t matter that they had made it through college and police academy and the rigorous hiring process. The goal was not to mentor and empower but to break people.  His new Field Training Officers earned nicknames like “The Ax”, “The Hatchet” and “The Terminator.”  All the guys that would do what he told them to, were called “Woody’s boys”.

To be continued…