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Kansas City, Kansas, Police Officer Sues The City For 'Rampant' Racism And Sexism

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer is suing the Unified Government of Wyandotte County for race and gender discrimination, something the lawsuit says is 'rampant' in the department.

A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer is suing the Unified Government of Wyandotte County for race and gender discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation. 

The federal lawsuit says race and gender discrimination have been "rampant" throughout the course of Z'Iontae Womack's 12 years with the department. According to the suit, she's one of approximately four African-American women officers at the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, and 80% of the department's 300 officers are white. 

"In the largely white KCKPD, racial comments and jokes are common, with little or no discipline being imposed," it says. 

It goes on to describe this as a "continuous pattern" that existed throughout Womack's tenure, particularly during the five years Terry Zeigler was police chief.

The lawsuit says the KCKPD has a pattern of disciplining African-American officers but not white officers for the same or more serious infractions, for example, "leaving work early ... sexting and filing false reports."

In one incident in 2017, the suit says Womack and her partner were chased in their police car by another police car, and that they believed the chasing officer, who said it was just a game, had been drinking.

Womack was cited for speeding and running a red light during the chase and given a one-day suspension while her white partner was not, the suit says. It adds that when she reported the incident to human resources, her suspension was tripled to three days.

In an employment discrimination complaint Womack filed in August, she wrote she was "mocked and ridiculed" by Zeigler on two separate occasions.

It's certainly not the first time Zeigler has come under scrutiny. Last fall he was named in a scathing 51-page lawsuit that said over two dozen members of the KCKPD "exploited and terrorized the inner-city KCK community" by, among other things, illegally obtaining falsified evidence to close cases.

The plaintiff in that suit is Lamonte McIntyre, who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn't commit. McIntyre claimed the KCKPD used sexual coercion and fabricated statements to wrongfully arrest him, and that Zeigler had "full knowledge" of the misconduct.

Then this past summer, a former cadet sued the KCKPD, claiming she was fired for reporting that an officer sexually assaulted her. Protests and calls for Zeigler to be fired began circulating. He announced his retirement just a month later and stepped down in September after 29 years with the department. 

The KCKPD declined to comment due to pending litigation. 

Womack is asking for a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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