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Lawyer: Women suing SPD for sexual harassment are face of recruitment efforts

May 1, 2024, 12:29 PM | Updated: 5:50 pm

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An SPD vehicle. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

Four women working for the Seattle Police Department (SDP) have accused its leadership of sexually harassing them and discriminating against them.

The women allege the department is punishing them for refusing to give in to their male supervisors’ bullying and harassment. The claim also stated that other women have come forward saying SPD is a “good ol’ boys club” and has a history of misogyny.

Therefore, the employees have filed a tort claim, an informal notice to solve the issue without going to court, avoiding expensive costs.

Previous coverage: Four SPD officers accuse department of sexual harassment, discrimination

Sumeer Singla is the lawyer representing the four women. On Tuesday, he was on “The John and Shari Show” on KIRO Newsradio to discuss the women’s accusations.

The first thing John Curley, co-host of “John and Shari,” asked Singla was if he noticed anything missing from current news coverage of the case.

Singla explained that SPD is doing a push to recruit more officers and part of that push is the 30×30 initiative. Thus, the department wants women to make up 30% of the force by 2030.

However, what many people have left out, he said, is that three of the four women suing SPD are at the forefront of that initiative.

“Three of my clients are the front-facing part of the department being used to recruit female officers,” Singla responded.

Singla also said he was surprised at how the women have been treated since they went public with their complaints.

SPD accused of victim-blaming women who have come forward

“This is a department that came out and said, ‘Hey, look, we’re trying to recruit more women,’ we’re going to use my clients, videos, photographs to have more women come on board. And when those same people that they’re using to recruit are saying, ‘Hey, we’re actually facing discrimination within’ they are rallied with statements like, ‘Well, you know, this is a male-dominated environment and we are sorry that you have this individualized perception of victimhood,'” Singla said.

Shari Elliker, co-host of “John and Shari,” asked what exactly happened to the women.

Singla explained that the women, who were newly hired, were told to stick with a male officer to learn the ropes of the job. However, what appeared to be a mentoring relationship allegedly led to a grooming relationship, where the women were sexually harassed.

One woman was invited to a work trip in Las Vegas, where Lt. John O’Neil allegedly told her he was “really good at sex.” Singla said other crude remarks were also allegedly made during the trip.

Chief Diaz was also accused of harassment. He allegedly told one of the women he could come over to repair things at her house. He allegedly said he would “come over tonight and take a look.” The woman said she was made uncomfortable by the comments.

Related news: SPD captain claims Chief Diaz has ‘history of misogyny’ in newly-filed lawsuit

The four women also told Singla their harassment claims would be swept under the rug whenever they would report them.

To listen to the full podcast with Singla, click below:

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has hired an outside investigator to look into claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in SPD, according to a report in The Seattle Times Tuesday night.

The letter reads, in part:

As I have stated previously, my administration is committed to building a police service that is representative of our community, including ensuring women are empowered and able to succeed. Indeed, this is my clear expectation for SPD and its command staff.

To this end, I take these recent allegations very seriously and believe it is essential for public trust and confidence to commission an external and independent review,” Harrell wrote.

Contributing: Frank Sumrall and Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest; Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Lawyer: Women suing SPD for sexual harassment are face of recruitment efforts