SEATTLE - A Black woman who has worked for decades as a Seattle police officer filed a $10 million claim with the city against its Police Department on Friday, alleging racial and gender discrimination.
Detective Denise "Cookie" Bouldin says in the claim that she has faced daily discrimination during her 43 years with the department, including instances where her loyalty was questioned because of her relationships in Seattle’s communities of color.
The claim was filed by Bouldin’s lawyer, 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.
The police department referred questions from the newspaper to the City Attorney’s Office, which said it had not yet seen the claim 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 for her opened last year.
Bouldin alleges a hostile work environment including overtly racist remarks by white supervisors and being ordered to perform menial tasks that were "degrading, humiliating and (with) racist overtones."
"She files this claim for damages in hopes that the department will authentically address issues related to the racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination she has faced in her career," the complaint reads. "She notes that the hostile work environment she has been subjected to has increased dramatically in recent years."
Bouldin also alleges that she faced retaliation after complaining about a co-worker who brought his dog to work and set up a pen and gate for the pet that Bouldin had to move to access needed supplies. After she took the issue to her supervisors, she said, feces and dog food were left at her locker.
In another instance, Bouldin, says, the name of a fellow Black officer was substituted for that of a wanted person on a flyer posted on a precinct bulletin board. She also alleges that some officers have refused to back her up on the streets.
The claim does not name any specific SPD officials or officers. Bouldin said her race and her efforts to involve herself in the city’s communities of color have made her a target within the department even as its leaders hold her up as a positive example of community policing.
"The Department regularly points to Detective Bouldin’s strong relationship with the communities of color whenever there is controversy in relation to a Seattle Police action," the claim alleges. "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 force training, address management deficiencies and take note of disturbing but inconclusive evidence of biased policing as part of a federal settlement that has cost upward of $200 million and remains in effect.
Data gathered as part of that process has shown that Seattle police continue to stop and use force against Black people far more often than white people.