Retired NYPD chief sues department over alleged 'glass ceiling' for female officers

The former chief claims the commissioner mocked her at a meeting.

August 10, 2020, 11:22 PM

A "glass ceiling" keeps women from climbing to the highest ranks of the nation's largest police force, a retired NYPD chief alleged Monday in a new lawsuit.

Lori Pollock, the department's first female chief of Crime Control Strategies, contends she was forced into retirement last week after 33 years of service due to "intolerable, difficult and unpleasant" working conditions that prevent women from advancing to "the most prestigious executive positions within the NYPD."

Pollock, one of five women to achieve the rank of three-star chief in the department's 175-year history, contends that NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea mocked her and made her feel unwelcome during internal meetings.

"Shea deliberately implemented, condoned, sanctioned and ratified a glass ceiling policy and practice within the NYPD," the suit says.

Dermot Shea, police commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, July 2, 2020.
Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

During a November 2019 meeting when Pollock gave a presentation to Shea, who had recently been promoted to commissioner, the suit claims he was distracted by his phone. Pollock told the commissioner at the meeting that she had interest in the chief of detectives position, which Shea had vacated when he got his promotion.

On Dec. 9, the department unveiled a new Bureau of Community Partnerships that was going to be led by Chauncey Parker, a civilian, with Pollock serving as a subordinate, the suit said. The suit contends that Pollock was never included in any of the discussions about the new bureau or her role.

"This is a starkly different career trajectory for Pollock as compared to her male predecessors," the suit says.

Later that day, Shea held a meeting to install the new members of the unit and over 30 top NYPD executives attended, according to the suit. In the past Pollock would sit three seats removed from the commissioner, but due to her reassignment she was placed at the other end of the table, the suit said.

"During the meeting, and in front of the entire executive staff, Shea shouted to Pollock and stated: 'Hey Lori how do you like it at the other end of the table?'" the suit said.

Pollock said she tried to meet with Shea to talk about her reassignment but he could not find time, and in March, she requested to resign from the force the suit said. The commissioner said he wouldn't accept her resignation and conceded, "Structurally her transfer was wrong," according to the suit.

Over the next couple of months, Shea promoted several men to high-ranking positions without affording women the opportunity to interview for them, the suit contends. Pollock resigned on August 6, "finding she had no alternative because it was more than clear to her that she could not advance her career," the suit said.

PHOTO: NYPD stock photo.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

A spokeswoman for the NYPD told ABC News that the department will review the suit when it is served.

"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," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The suit contends Shea violated New York's laws against gender discrimination and seeks compensatory damages that will be determined at a future date.

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