Lori Pollock, a former NYPD police chief, retired earlier this month and filed a lawsuit Monday claiming that the Police Department systematically denies women chances to compete for top jobs.
Pollock worked in data-driven crime fighting, and the two men who had worked in Pollock’s data-driven crime fighting position previously — including recently-appointed Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea — had received promotions to become the chief of detectives. Pollock had also asked to be considered for this role. However, when Shea took over as police commissioner in November, he assigned Pollock to the head the Office of Collaborative Policing, a role she considered a demotion, according to her interview on CBS This Morning.
She filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit in Manhattan accusing the police commissioner and department of systemically denying women the opportunity to compete for senior positions.
The suit states that Shea tried to persuade Pollock that the collaborative policing lead position was pivotal because it would focus on the department’s youth programs, but the new position also granted her less authority and no longer had her directly report to the police commissioner. The person who took her former position was a man, The New York Times reports.
Two former female police chiefs filed similar lawsuits last year against the NYPD, claiming they were forced to leave their positions to make room for younger, minority and male officers. These older white women, Joanne Jaff and Diana Pizzutti, claimed they were being discriminated against based on age, gender and race — a claim the department denied.
Though women make up 18% of the department’s 36,000 uniformed officers, a female officer has never been appointed police commissioner, chief of department, chief of detectives or chief of patrol in the 175-year history of the agency. Only 39 of the 416 officers who help ranks above captain in the NYPD were women, according to The New York Times.
Statistics like these are not just prevalent in the NYPD. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women make up 12% of the nation’s police officers, less than 10% of police supervisors and about 3% of police chiefs or executives.
Obstacles women often face in male-dominated professions such as policing include harassment, lack of mentorship and networking opportunities and struggles with balancing family obligations.
Pollock, a three-star chief who has served with the NYPD for 33 years, was one of just five women to ever reach that high of a rank within the department.
“I saw other women getting treated poorly, and I knew that I was not going to advance, not under Commissioner Shea,” Pollock said in an interview with CBS This Morning. “So I had to leave.”