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Former Sergeant Sues Denver Police Department Alleging First Amendment Violations, Discrimination and Retaliation

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By Katie Langford

(The Denver Post) A retired sergeant alleges the Denver Police Department leaders violated her First Amendment rights and retaliated against her for speaking out about discrimination and harassment while also discriminating against her because she is a Black woman, according to a new federal lawsuit. headline news

Carla Havard led the Citywide Impact Team as “one of a few Black female officer employees” at the Denver Police Department when she called for an investigation into allegations of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct made at a department meeting in September 2021, according to her lawsuit.

As she continued to speak out over the next two years, Havard was subjected to retaliation and discrimination that ultimately led her to retire in July, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against the City and County of Denver and the Denver Police Department on March 15.

“Until she started speaking out strongly about race and sex discrimination and other matters of public concern, Ms. Havard had an excellent reputation in the DPD and the outside community,” Havard’s attorneys, Patricia Bangert and Jenipher Jones, wrote in the complaint.

The Denver City Attorney’s Office and Denver Police Department on Thursday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In the complaint, Havard’s attorneys allege she was put on a retaliatory performance improvement plan, written up for minor infractions such as being two minutes late to a meeting, excluded from meetings, disparaged by her supervisor and stereotyped as an “angry Black woman” by department officials.

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In an April 2022 interview with the department’s internal affairs bureau, an investigator described Havard as “an angry Black woman with behavioral issues,” according to the complaint.

While she was on vacation in April 2023, department leaders began dismantling the Citywide Impact Team she led and reassigned her to a “made up” position as division chief of administration office and community ombudsman, the lawsuit alleges.

And when department officials found out Havard planned to speak at a Women’s Bar Association conference in May, she was served with an internal affairs complaint alleging equal employment violations along with a gag order prohibiting her from discussing the complaint.

When she sought clarification about the gag order through her attorney, an assistant city attorney said the police department would seek to fire Havard if she were to “name names” in her speech to the Women’s Bar Association.

The day after the speech, department leaders filed an additional charge to the equal employment complaint against her and she was put on indefinite leave, according to the lawsuit.

Havard retired in July because of the department and city’s “treatment of her and a growing fear for her safety,” the lawsuit alleges. She still cannot find work in security or law enforcement because of the department’s pending claim.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the city and department violated federal law and Havard’s constitutional and civil rights as well as unspecified monetary damages.

©2024 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at denverpost.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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