Lori Pollock, a former three-star NYPD Chief, is suing Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, accusing him of gender bias for passing her up for promotion to Chief of Detectives, his former post, and one she insisted she “was more than qualified” to hold.
She oversaw the Crime Control Strategies Bureau—another job he previously held—until Mr. Shea shuffled the NYPD’s executive team shortly after his appointment as Commissioner in December and named the 33-year department veteran to Chief of Collaborative Policing, formerly a civilian position, which she perceived as a demotion.
‘Forced to Retire’
Chief Pollock’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court Aug. 10, alleges a pattern of discrimination exists at the NYPD, with “women like Pollock” unable to advance to the higher leadership echelons “due to the gender based and long-standing ‘glass ceiling’ policy within the NYPD which inhibits, prohibits and denies career advancement to women executives within the NYPD.”
Consequently, the suit says, “qualified women are forced to retire” since working conditions prove “intolerable, difficult and unpleasant.”
Fewer than one in five—6,490, or 18 percent—of the NYPD’s 35,115 officers are women. The department did not respond to a request for data detailing the gender breakdown of officers by rank.
Five of the 18 Chiefs listed on the NYPD’s website are women. They include Martine Materasso, whom Mr. Shea promoted in December to Assistant Chief of Counter-terrorism. Chief Pollock is also among those listed, despite having left the department Aug. 6.
No woman has served as Chief of Detectives, Chief of Patrol, Chief of Department or Commissioner in the NYPD’s 175-year history, the suit stated.
Mr. Shea tapped then-Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison as Chief of Detectives.
What She's Seeking
Ms. Pollock, 56, is seeking unspecified damages for “constitutional violations” and for her “treatment and conduct; loss of pay, benefits and pension; as well as other compensation."
An NYPD spokeswoman said it would be reviewing the lawsuit.
“The contributions of women, both in leadership roles and in their representation in the uniformed and civilian ranks, across the Police Department, cannot be overestimated,” Sgt. Jessica McRorie said in a statement.
The suit says an “objective examination” of a recent report compiled by the NYPD’s Personnel Bureau “indicates that the advancement of women within the uniformed ranks of the department is not independent of gender.”
According to that data, women are also less likely than men to hold the rank of Deputy Inspector or above.
Claims Women Shut Out
While promotions through the rank of Captain are made through exams—an ostensibly objective process—appointments to Deputy Inspector and higher ranks are made by the Commissioner, and are therefore more subjective, the suit claims, given that requirements are not publicized.
That process means the Commissioner “does not provide any opportunity for women executive managers to interview and compete for these positions.”
Chief Pollock replaced then-Chief Shea as Chief of Crime Control Strategies in April 2018 when he was promoted to Chief of Detectives. She was the first woman named to the post, and her promotion to three-star Chief was just the fifth for a woman in the department’s history.
In that post, as Mr. Shea had been before her, she was responsible for refining crime-fighting tactics, overseeing a team of data scientists and analysts. The suit says she “implemented and supervised the development of unique data analytics and artificial intelligence programs to identify crime patterns.”
Her presence at the department’s monthly crime briefings, during which she detailed crime trends and the NYPD’s responses for the assembled press, broke up what was then a nearly all-white-male row of police executives and the Mayor.
Despite her achievements, the suit says, Chief Pollock “because of her gender has not been able to advance her career in the same manner and to the same extent that a male has been able to do within the department.”
Led Det., Narcotics Commands
Ms. Pollock joined the department in 1987 and began her career in the 19th Precinct. She held a variety of assignments after that, including as commander of Detective Borough Manhattan North and Narcotics Borough Manhattan North, and served as executive officer of Narcotics Borough Brooklyn North. She was promoted to Deputy Inspector in 2007 and to Inspector in 2012.
She earned a master’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice last year.
The suit says that shortly after Mr. Shea’s appointment as Commissioner last November, he convened a transition meeting attended by high-ranking NYPD executives at which Chief Pollock made a presentation highlighting her “duties and responsibilities” and discussed the future of the Crime Control Strategies bureau.
She concluded her presentation by saying she wanted to be considered for the Chief of Detectives post. But the suit contends that Mr. Shea’s “disregard” for her remarks and those of other women managers was apparent because he was preoccupied with his phone during their presentations.
A few days after she was named Chief of Collaborative Policing, she found out through a department-wide email that a new hire, Chauncey Parker, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Assistant District Attorney, would be appointed Deputy Commissioner and would be her supervisor.
On his first day at the department, Mr. Parker asked that Chief Pollock help him get a telephone, drawings for his office and personnel, a request, the suit says, that is representative of the department’s culture: “Parker would have never requested that a three-star male Chief...perform clerical duties for him.”
In all, the suit says, those turns of events represented “a starkly different career trajectory for Pollock as compared to her male predecessors.”
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