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Officer sues KCK for multiple issues in police department

Posted at 6:03 AM, Dec 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 11:53:53-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer filed a lawsuit against the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, claiming multiple issues in the department.

They include race discrimination, gender discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation.

According to court documents, Z'iontae Womack, a black woman, said she has been treated much differently than white officers and men in the department, including being disciplined for things that others in the department weren't disciplined for.

She claimed that former Police Chief Terry Zeigler fostered an atmosphere of race and gender discrimination during his nearly five years heading the department.

The lawsuit claims that black officers are disciplined for things that white officers are not disciplined for, or they face harsher punishments for similar violations, as well as more intense investigations.

It also claims the department does not take sexual harassment claims seriously.

In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Zeigler said he wanted to "talk about hypotheticals," including what a police chief should do when an employee is caught sleeping on the job, issued 70 suspension days in 10 years and has violated the department's pursuit policy six times within six months.

"A chief of police has to hold employees accountable, irregardless of race, sex, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, any of that," Zeigler said in the video. "And I'm gonna tell you this, just like we see in the criminal justice system, employees do not like being held accountable. So they don't tell the true story, either to their co-workers, to the media, or when they file lawsuits or complaints with the Kansas Human Rights Commission."

According to the lawsuit, Womack was disciplined for not having Wyandotte County tags on the car she was driving, which is a requirement for officers and one that many white officers weren't disciplined for.

Womack also said she was disciplined for sleeping on the job, but when she tried to get evidence to show that a sergeant was sleeping, the sergeant was not disciplined and she was told not to take pictures and video on the job, according to court documents.

She claimed racial comments and jokes are common, generally go undisciplined and create a hostile work environment.

Womack said she suffered stress and got sick because of police department actions and had to take time off work as a result.

The Unified Government has until Dec. 23 to respond in the case.