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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

November-21-97

Statement of Chief Penny Harrington,Director of National Center for Women & Policing,In Support of Bill Lann Lee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

Washington DC -- My name is Chief Penny Harrington, and I direct the National Center for Women & Policing, a Division of the Feminist Majority Foundation. I am the former Chief of Police of Portland, Oregon, and I was the first woman in the nation to become the chief of police in a major city. I have served as a member of the Gender Equity Task Force, a position appointed by the Los Angeles Police Commission, and I have testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on gender issues and policing. I make this statement in support of the nomination of Bill Lann Lee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
For several years I had the opportunity to work with Bill Lann Lee while he represented women and minorities in employment discrimination claims against the Los Angeles Police Department. As a member of the Women's Advisory Council to the Los Angeles Police Commission, I co-chaired both the Sexual Harassment Committee and the Recruitment, Hiring, and Promotion Committee. The committees identified obstacles to the full utilization of female officers in the Los Angeles Police Department and made recommendations for implementing gender equity.

It is well documented that female officers have been subjected to discrimination within the Los Angeles Police Department for several decades. The Christopher Commission report concluded there was widespread gender bias in the department, which resulted in underutilization of female officers. More recently, the Mark Fuhrman Task Force Report documented a hostile work environment for women and minorities, including the operation of the group, "Men Against Women." I, personally, have interviewed dozens of female police officers working for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bill Lann Lee represented many of these female officers in the Tipton lawsuit, which involved sex discrimination in hiring, promotion, pay, and assignment. The Tipton lawsuit also claimed sexual harassment and retaliation against female police officers. The evidence in that case included a litany of hostile and offensive acts perpetrated by male officers against their female counterparts. These acts included unwelcome sexual advances and propositions, sexual and racial jokes, offensive name-calling, the posting of sexually suggestive photographs and drawings in the workplace, the touching or grabbing of female officers, and even rape. Many, if not all, of the women's complaints of harassment were ignored or never resolved. Female victims who complained were often retaliated against by failing to advance within the department, threatened with misconduct, or subjected to more of the same hostile behavior.

Throughout Bill Lann Lee's representation of the female officers in this lawsuit, he was recognized as a fair-minded, reasonable lawyer who advanced his clients' interests within the confines of the law. Even the opposing counsel in the Tipton lawsuit, Robert Cramer, wrote that he "respected Bill's candor, his thorough preparation, his sense of ethical behavior, and his ability to bring persons holding diverse views into agreement."

I have known Bill Lann Lee for several years and respect his legal skills and his ethical manner of dealing with people. I wholeheartedly support the nomination of Bill Lann Lee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

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