Gender Discrimination Law Suit Filed Against City of Ashland
ASHLAND - A former reserve police officer for the city of Ashland filed suit October 12 over a gender discrimination complaint. Monique Lewis held the volunteer position with no pay, but had a uniform, badge, and a gun. Lewis filed a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission last year. Lewis' attorney said the board took too long to investigate so Lewis decided to take action on their own.
Lewis filed the suit claiming that as a member of the reserve police force she should have had priority to be hired as a member of the police force should a position come available.
Lewis' attorney, Jared Craighead, said "[Hiring the reserve officer] had been the practice until Mrs. Lewis became the senior reserve officer. Then all of a sudden they decided to change the practice."
According to Chris Heard, Ashland city administrator, the police force at one time had a "spoken policy" that members of the reserve force would have first right to positions that would come available. But Heard said when he became the city administrator, he felt it was fair to take applications for police officers rather than the system they had which he considered not to be the norm.
During the time the empty positions came available, the city hired at least five men, according to Attorney Craighead. He also noted that two of the police officers hired had what he called indiscretions. Craighead said one officer had a DWI charge and the other was dismissed from Columbia Police because of excessive force.
Heard disputes these claim saying the city hired the men based on the information that was available at the time of hiring. The process for hiring police includes filing an application and taking a test with a minimum score to qualify for a panel interview. Those who pass the panel interview then go on to be interviewed by the police chief.
Lewis' attorney his client graduated second in her class in the Moberly Police Academy and also worked for the Columbia Police department.
The Ashland Police has six officers. One is a woman, which they hired after the compliant was file. According to Heard, the City of Ashland has hired women in the past as officers.