A Los Angeles police sergeant is suing the city, alleging she was the target of an online harassment campaign because she denounced her colleagues for sharing sexist memes. The suit also alleges that her supervisors attempted to suspend and demote her after she complained about her.
Darcy French, who joined the LAPD in 1998, said she reported the conduct to her superiors in the late summer of 2020, hoping they would intervene after she became the subject of demeaning and humiliating posts on social media. , presumably from other officers.
Instead, her lawsuit alleges, the complaint was ignored for months and then her superiors “clearly orchestrated a series of actions” aimed at discrediting and retaliating against her for reporting the abuse.
In the lawsuit, filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court, French argued that the retaliation did not end there. She said she was passed over for lieutenant three times between February and July 2022. In that time, she says, she was forced to administratively transfer out of the Southeast Division, twice threatened with suspension, and then marked for demotion. from the rank of sergeant II to policeman III.
The lawsuit alleges that the department’s leadership contributed to a hostile work environment by failing to “take prompt and appropriate corrective action to stop offensive social media posts or hold offending employees accountable.”
When contacted Thursday, French’s attorney, Leila Al Faiz, declined to comment. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office said it could not discuss the pending litigation.
Shortly after the harassment began, French said he tried to communicate his concerns to his captain, Clinton Dohmen. But instead of helping her, the lawsuit alleges that Dohmen began to avoid French. He repeatedly canceled or refused meetings with her and took away some of her functions without justification from her.
He then proceeded to “unfairly” advise her “for allegedly being mean, hostile, and unprofessional based on unspecified and unsupported criticism from unnamed officers who were likely simply disgruntled that plaintiff reported the memes,” the lawsuit says.
The hypersexualized posts reportedly began sometime in July 2020, after French noticed some Southeast Division officers on his shift sharing a sexist meme. The meme appeared to mock a gang unit cop who had stopped a southeastern officer from using a baton on a suspect.
French alleges that the meme depicted the cane as a tampon, and the caption read something to the effect of “this is what (gang unit) brings to a UOF,” using an acronym for a use-of-force incident.
The meme, the lawsuit says, compared the actions of the unnamed gang officer to the feminine hygiene product “to indicate weakness in appealing to negative gender stereotypes.”
French says he admonished officers under his command during a roll call, warning them that posting or sharing such memes could lead to disciplinary action.
Soon after, he became aware of another “derogatory” meme that featured an image of Hello Kitty accompanied by a captain suggesting that the gang unit had gone “crying” to the watch commander of the third watch, French’s position.
French said he continued to raise the issue at subsequent roll calls; As she did so, memes of her began to target her specifically and became more vulgar.
The online abuse lasted from roughly July 2020 to June 2021, the lawsuit alleges.
“Numerous posts or memes made use of negative gender stereotypes, such as depicting plaintiff as a bird or pouting boy, contained offensive, demeaning, threatening, and sexualized references to plaintiff, and depicted violence against plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. .
The posts were made to the social media account @chippies_comedy, according to the lawsuit, and “several memes or posts targeted other female employees in the department because of their sex or gender.”
One of those posts referenced gang rape, the lawsuit alleged, referencing French’s position and the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division.
“Plaintiff saw these and other offensive social media posts and learned that they were widely viewed, shared and discussed by LAPD employees across the department,” the lawsuit alleges. “The plaintiff was humiliated, offended and threatened by this harassing conduct against her and other employees of the department.”
French said she filed a harassment complaint in July 2020, but was not interviewed by department officials until five months later.
“However, despite learning of the previous explicitly targeted misconduct (in French), LAPD leadership failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action to stop and remedy the harassment she suffered,” the lawsuit said.
The suit alleges that “no appropriate discipline was imposed for these egregious acts.”
The following March, he shared his complaints about the department’s “failure to condemn and remedy derogatory and demeaning online postings” in a letter to the Los Angeles County Association of Professional Peace Officers, the lawsuit says. The letter caught the attention of department leaders and the Office of Professional Standards, she says.
He eventually transferred out of the Southeast, where he had spent the previous five years, unable to take the continual bullying.
Rather than take her concerns seriously and investigate the matter, French alleges that department leaders retaliated against her by “initiating various frivolous complaints.” In 2022, department leaders twice recommended a five-day suspension for allegations against her of past conduct and also wanted to demote her.
The lawsuit says the department took away most of her duties in May, leaving her little to do since.
She filed a whistleblower claim against the city in August.
Over the years, the department has been dogged by allegations made by female police officers who describe a vulgar and sexist culture within their ranks.
In one of the biggest scandals to rock the department recently, Los Angeles Police Department Captain Lillian Carranza sued the department after other officers began circulating a photo of a nude woman that some falsely claimed was her. . Last year, a jury awarded Carranza $4 million in damages.
Jurors in the Carranza case also found that the LAPD failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action to address the hostile environment as required by state law. Another LAPD detective, Tina Rios, settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against the city in February.
UCLA researchers are looking at the treatment of women across all city departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, as part of a larger study expected to be published this year.