In 2008, Angelica Robinson, who says she she began an affair with Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee this year, sued the City of Detroit and Detroit Police Department alongside the ACLU alleging employment discrimination while pregnant.
Chief Godbee was suspended Tuesday by Mayor Dave Bing after allegations surfaced that he had been seeing Officer Angelica Robinson, who currently works in Internal Affairs. She exposed the affair on Tuesday after sending a photo of herself pointing a pistol in her mouth over Twitter last weekend.
According to the ACLU, a DPD policy change in 2004 disqualified pregnant officers from hundreds of non-patrol or administrative jobs that would allow them to continue working for much of their pregnancies. The ACLU's 2008 Women's Rights Project Report said, "Because of this change, many female Detroit police officers have been left with no alternative but to conceal their pregnancies out of fear of temporarily losing their jobs." The lawsuit argued that the policy was illegal under Title VII and violated the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection.
Robinson and four other female DPD officers settled with the City and DPD for $268,000, the amount of which was approved by Detroit City Council during a Nov. 16, 2010 council meeting.
In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Federal Court's Eastern District, Robinson, who was 33 years old at the time of the complaint, was sent to the DPD's medical division for evaluation after a rumor spread that she had become pregnant. At the time, she was also seeking a transfer to another department, citing the need for "job satisfaction."
While Robinson was indeed pregnant, she wasn't showing and her pregnancy hadn't affected her ability to perform her duties. She decided to keep her change in medical status a secret from coworkers, according to the lawsuit. But, on March 20, 2008, she was placed on unpaid medical leave.
Robinson supplied the DPD with medical documentation that stated she was "able to work her full duty current job assignment, without any restrictions" and that a medical leave wouldn't be required until August 26, 2008.
The lawsuit says that even the DPD's own medical doctor agreed with that evaluation. Yet the DPD refused to allow her back to her job.
Robinson was forced to continue to take the unpaid medical leave, exhausting 500 hours of accrued sick time in order to receive her pay and benefits. She also applied for Family Medical Leave benefits to continue her health coverage, according to the amended complaint.
In the lawsuit, Robinson said that the forced leave would "adversely affect her chances of transfer and/or promotion in the future." She also claimed that she had considered having more children, but was discouraged from doing so by the policies and practices of the Detroit Police Department.
Under the settlement, it's illegal to ask a DPD employee if she is pregnant or anticipates being pregnant. Also, the department cannot assign an officer to desk duty because she is pregnant without her prior request, or force pregnant women to go on unpaid leave.
While Robinson has said that her relationship with Chief Godbee didn't begin until this year, he had began his ascent to the highest ranks of the Detroit Police Department during the period in which she and other women claimed to have been discriminated against.
According to a 2010 Detroit Free Press profile on Ralph Godbee, he was named to assistant chief (second in command) of the DPD in 2005, but retired from the department in Sept. 2008. Godbee had been the subject of more scrutinizing headlines after co-hosting what was portrayed as a birthday luncheon for then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in August 2008. By that time, it had been months since Kilpatrick had already been charged with several felonies, including perjury, in the text message scandal.
After a brief stint in private security consulting for NBA star Allen Iverson, Godbee was hired back to his position as assistant chief to then-Sheriff Warren Evans in July 2009. He became the department's top cop about a year later, when his predecessor was fired by Bing after an embarrassing reality TV show video of him surfaced and complaints arose about Evans' relationship with Officer Monique Patterson. But it was then revealed that Godbee, too, had an affair with Patterson, with text messages showing that he may have intended to help Patterson rise in the ranks.
WXYZ says that Robinson and Godbee have been reportedly dating for a year.
While there are no written policies that prohibit command officers from dating subordinates, the two officers' positions could cause a major conflict of interest. "Internal affairs is supposed to operate independently of the rest of the police department to avoid conflicts of interest that would jeopardize investigations into officers accused of corruption, brutality and false arrests," writes Motor City Muckraker.
Read the order of dismissal, dated July 2010.
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