New Jersey

New Jersey Officer Sues Department Over Racial, Gender Discrimination

A New Jersey police officer has sued her department, saying she endured years of racial and gender discrimination that included supervisors telling her to style her hair like a white officer.

The civil lawsuit filed by Hillside Sgt. Qiana Brown, who is black, claims in the suit she has improperly been denied a promotion to lieutenant. Brown says she earned the second-highest score on the department's promotion test, but four white men have, so far, been promoted ahead of her.

Brown also says in the lawsuit that supervisors prevented her from pumping breast milk and told her to style her hair like a white officer. Supervisors referred to her hair as "kinky" and "not conservative," according to the suit.

Besides the town and the police department, the suit names Hillside's police chief, two other high-ranking officers and a former mayor as plaintiffs. Messages seeking comment from the town and the police department were not returned Tuesday.

Brown has worked for the department since 2003. She's seeking undisclosed damages, back pay and seniority.

Brown contends that her troubles with the department began in 2009 after she reported officers sleeping on duty and improperly unholstering their guns. And when she was promoted to acting sergeant later that year, Brown said she wasn't paid a sergeant's salary, which she says went against department rules and past practice involving a white predecessor.

The suit also says that Brown and another female officer are the only two department members who haven't been accepted into the department's Fraternal Order of Police, the labor unit that advocates on behalf of the officers.

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