SEATTLE (AP) — A black woman who worked for decades as a Seattle police officer filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city against the police department on Friday, alleging racial and gender discrimination.
Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin says in the lawsuit that she has faced daily discrimination during her 43 years in the department, including instances where her loyalty was questioned because of her relationship in Seattle’s community of color.
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The claim was filed by Bouldin’s attorney, James Bible, a former chairman of the King County NAACP, The Seattle Times reported. The city has 60 days to respond, and if the claim is denied, Bouldin can file a lawsuit.
Police referred questions from the newspaper to the city attorney’s office, which said it had not yet seen the allegation and declined to comment.
Bouldin, 67, has been a prominent police officer in the diverse South Precinct, where she has taught children to play chess and build relationships. A Rainier Beach neighborhood park named after her opened last year.
Bouldin alleges a hostile work environment that included overtly racist remarks by white supervisors and being ordered to perform menial tasks that were “degrading, humiliating and (with) racist overtones.”
“She is filing this claim in the hope that the department will authentically address issues related to racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination she has experienced in her career,” the complaint states. “She notes that the hostile work environment she has been exposed to has increased dramatically in recent years.”
Bouldin also claims she faced retaliation after complaining about a co-worker who brought her dog to work and set up a pen and gate for the pet that Bouldin had to move to access necessary supplies. After she took the matter to her superiors, she said feces and dog food were left in her closet.
In another case, Bouldin says the name of another black officer was replaced by the name of a wanted person on a flyer posted on a bulletin board. She also claims that some officers have refused to support her on the streets.
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The claim does not name any specific SPD officials or officers. Bouldin said her race and her efforts to get involved in the city’s community of color have made her a target in the department, even as leaders hold her up as a positive example of policing.
“The department regularly points to Detective Bouldin’s strong relationship with communities of color whenever there is controversy surrounding a Seattle police action,” the claim states. “Behind the scenes, other officers and supervisors have belittled Detective Bouldin and challenged whether she is with the department or with the community.”
The department agreed in 2012 to overhaul its use of strength training, address management deficiencies and note troubling but inconclusive evidence of biased policing as part of a federal settlement that has cost upwards of $200 million and is still pending.
Data collected as part of this process has shown that Seattle police continue to stop and use force against black people far more often than white people.