LPD officer files sex discrimination lawsuit against City of Lincoln

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 11:34 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 12:30 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A 20-year-veteran of the Lincoln Police Department is suing the City of Lincoln, alleging she suffered years of sex discrimination and a hostile work environment. It’s the second discrimination lawsuit filed against the department by a former female officer in the past four months.

Throughout her career, Melissa Ripley said she has been subjected to sex discrimination and sex stereotypes that caused her to be treated differently than her male counterparts and disqualified her from advancing in her career and damaged her reputation. The lawsuit said LPD’s command staff and other City officials were aware or should have been aware of the hostile work environment and discrimination and failed to take appropriate remedial measures.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Ripley named Interim Police Chief Brian Jackson several times. Jackson was Ripley’s supervisor in the Lincoln/Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force in 2007, when she alleges her mistreatment began. Ripley said when voicing her concerns to Jackson he did nothing to remedy them.

Ripley said her safety was unnecessarily jeopardized during undercover narcotics assignments, especially during the lunch hour when Jackson took male LPD officers on the surveillance team to lunch rather than monitor her wire. Ripley said Jackson also never took her to lunch like he did with the male officers.

Ripley, who worked second shift, asked to move to first shift due to her safety concerns. She said Jackson denied the request and angrily told her she wasn’t in a position to “demand” anything.

Ripley said Jackson would ask for her help picking out articles of clothing to wear and made her wash his vehicle on several occasions, but Jackson didn’t ask the same of male officers.

Ripley said she was passed over for multiple specialized positions by men who weren’t as qualified. When passed over for a permanent investigator position within the Narcotics Unit, Ripley said Jackson admitted to her that he selected a friend he went to police academy with. She said she was also not selected for positions by Jackson’s successor of the Narcotics Unit, Chris Peterson. Ripley said Captain Peterson told her she wasn’t selected because she had a reputation for being “hard to get along with” and “not a team player.”

Ripley said in April 2017 she suffered an on-duty serious injury when a Great Dane dog viciously attacked her. She underwent surgery to repair the cuts and bite to her face. During her recovery, a male police officer referred to the incident as “Bitches get Stiches.” Ripley said the officer was notorious for making inappropriate and lewd comments. Following an internal investigation, the male officer received four hours of unpaid suspension.

In April 2019, Jackson and Peterson began investigating Ripley. Ripley said when she asked Jackson to disclose the reason for the investigation, he refused to respond. Ripley said she was unaware of the investigation until her husband, an LPD detective, told her, which was contrary to LPD’s protocol for internal investigations. She said the timing of the investigation was suspicious because five months earlier she provided deposition testimony in support of another officer in a case against the City. Ripley’s testimony was critical of Peterson, who was investigating her without her knowledge.

In an annual EEO survey sent to officers in 2020, Ripley said the following:

Based on continued discriminatory work environment against female officers at LPD, I do not believe that I will ever be treated fairly. I’ve spent my entire career working hard and developing myself for permanent, specialized positions. But I do not believe I will ever obtain one because of the way female officers are viewed and treated by administration.

Melissa Ripley

Ripley doesn’t believe her comments in the EEO survey were investigated.

Ripley is asking to be compensated for back pay, front pay, loss of earning capacity, loss of reputation, compensatory damages, consequential damages in amounts to be proven at trial.

10/11 NOW reached out to Interim Chief Jackson and he did not comment.

City Attorney Yohance Christie said while the city disagrees with the allegations, they take all accusations of discrimination and harassment seriously. He said he’s looking forward to seeing the information brought forward by the legal process.

The lawsuit is the second that claims discrimination against women within the Lincoln Police Department in recent months. Former officer Sarah Williams filed a discrimination lawsuit against the department in November of 2020, alleging discrimination and harassment based on her gender.

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