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Two Former Philadelphia Police Officers Win $1 Million Verdict Against City

In August 2019, two female Philadelphia police officers filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually harassed and discriminated against while working on the force, and the department failed to resolve their complaints.

Cpl. Audra McCowan said she texted the police department's head, Commissioner Richard Ross, complaining that another officer sexually harassed her. She claims Ross responded, "So why don't you just order his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face 'Officer.'" McCowan claimed Ross would not act on her complaints because she broke off their affair in 2011. The other female police officer also alleged she was sexually harassed and that a supervisor groped her on more than one occasion. In addition, she claimed someone from the department stole the breast milk she had stored in the cafeteria. When she reported the stolen breast milk, a superior made jokes about it. Soon after the women filed their lawsuit, Commissioner Ross resigned from the force. The mayor accepted Ross's resignation, stating it was in the best interests of the police department.

A federal jury found the women had endured a hostile work environment, including being assigned undesirable jobs with varying shifts after they complained. The jury awarded each woman $500,000. McCowan now works at a local school for less than half her former pay, while Allen stated she cannot work. A psychiatrist testified that both women suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The city hired the department's first Black woman as commissioner to replace Ross. The city did not comment in the media on the verdict.