Philly PD Sued Over Sexual Harassment

A “highly regarded veteran” sued the department over what she calls “systemic retaliation” after she filed a formal complaint against a sergeant who had been sexually harassing a fellow officer.

The plaintiff says she was denied transfer requests, vacation time and even had officers showing up at her house to deliver arbitrary messages that frightened her family.

Most workplaces have a standardized method of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. Philadelphia’s Police Department is no different. That’s why when a fellow officer Jessica Roseberry called Latasha Stevens to tell her she was being sexually harassed by a commanding officer at work, she reported what she knew to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

According to the complaint, Stevens was told that the harassment included, but was not limited to, the officer asking Roseberry if she “was wearing a vest because her titties were big.”

The department’s directive states that, “Supervisors who become aware of an [equal employment opportunity] complaint from any source must report this to the Office of Professional Responsibility regardless of whether the complainant desires to pursue the complaint.”

Stevens told Roseberry she would be reporting the incident to OPR, but Roseberry asked her not to as she feared retribution from the sergeant and his brother, also a Philly cop.

Regardless, Stevens provided a statement to OPR according to department protocol.

According to he complaint, shortly after providing the statement a Captain Altovise Love-Craighead, named as a defendant in the case, approached Stevens’ supervisor, Beverly Pembrook, demanding to know why Stevens filed with OPR instead of coming directly to her. Pembrook relayed Love-Craighead’s concerns to Stevens, who plainly stated that department policy required her to file with OPR.

Stevens says shortly after this incident, the retaliation began.

Whenever Stevens took a sick day, she says officers came to her house to conduct “sick checks, ” meaning she would face potential reprimand if she was not found to be at home. Stevens says she was the only member of her district that faced such scrutiny.

After requiring surgery on her thumb following an at-work injury, Stevens took several months off to recuperate. Despite being on approved sick leave, Stevens says officers were sent to her house to deliver messages that could have easily been communicated digitally, often distressing her family.

“Stevens believes and avers that [the department’s] continuous use of the sick check policy and sending district personnel to deliver messages to [her] was meant to harass [her] and was done to retaliate against [her] for assisting Officer Roseberry with filing her EEO complaint,” according to the complaint.

At this point Stevens attempted to secure a transfer in an effort to remover herself from what was becoming an increasingly hostile working environment, according to the complaint.

That’s when things became “systemic,” according to the complaint. When being interviewed for a potential transfer to another district inside the department, Captain Debra Francis asked Stevens multiple times why, specifically, she wanted the transfer.

Eventually Stevens admitted she was unhappy, at which point Captain Francis told her, “That’s what I thought. Have you asked anyone about me? Because you might be jumping from the frying pan to the fire.”

Confused, Stevens asked some fellow officers what Captain Francis might have meant, at which point she discovered that Francis and the aforementioned Love-Craighead are close friends outside of work, according to the complaint. At this point Stevens realized that her transfer request would not be granted, despite Love-Craighead’s initial approval, and withdrew her request.

Following the withdrawal, Stevens says that her requests for vacation time were regularly denied, despite there being adequate coverage.  She says she was also subjected to phony performance reviews that claimed she was not performing her administrative duties, all in retaliation for her initial harassment complaint.

She eventually reached out to Captain Jarreau Thomas, also named as a defendant, regarding the ongoing hostile working environment she was experiencing. According to the complaint, she was told by Lt. Kenora Scott that Thomas felt the only solution would be for neither party to speak to one another while working, and the denial of her transfer request was reiterated.

Stevens says that despite her exhaustive efforts to resolve the ongoing issues, she continues to experience retaliation for assisting Officer Roseberry in filing her sexual harassment complaint.

She is now suing on four counts, one violation each of Title VII, U.S. Code 1983, the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Troy Brown of Philly PD’s public affairs division said they do not comment on ongoing litigation, and referred us to the City Solicitor’s office for comment. The solicitor’s office advised us to contact the Mayor’s office, whose spokesperson Mike Dunn declined to comment on any ongoing litigation.