Milwaukee Police Assistant Chief Raymond Banks harassed a female officer for years, making sexual comments, calling her at home to proposition her and barging into her office uninvited, according to a letter written by one of her attorneys. The woman was so traumatized she was forced to take medical leave.
Banks’ promotion to assistant chief came soon after the woman reported the harassment to both internal affairs and to the Fire and Police Commission.
The woman does not want to file a lawsuit but rather wants to resume her career in a safe environment, according to the letter from one of her attorneys, which was provided to the Journal Sentinel by a confidential source.
“MPD did not take reasonable corrective action to ensure that the harassment did not reoccur, and in fact, it did the opposite by empowering Mr. Banks (during a supposed investigation into his conduct, no less) by promoting him to the prestigious role of assistant chief,” according to the letter, written by attorney William Wetzel, who is representing the woman along with Nola Hitchcock Cross of the Cross Law Firm.
Fear of retaliation:
After filing her complaint, the woman was assigned to be supervised by Banks and by the father of her child, with whom she no longer has a relationship. She also was stripped of the professional responsibilities she loved most, the letter says.
She “held back reporting Banks’ sexual harassment because she was afraid of retaliation,” the letter says. “Now that she did report it, she feels like she has a target on her back and doesn’t feel comfortable being in any department location or building because of Assistant Chief Banks.”
The woman reported Banks’ behavior in January. About a week later she was told he would be “counseled,” according to the letter.
The woman’s request for documents relating to the internal investigation of her complaint was denied, according to the letter.
The Journal Sentinel requested those records Aug. 6. Police have not yet turned them over.
Police Department has a history of harassment:
Sexual harassment has long been a problem in the Milwaukee Police Department. A draft report by the U.S. Department of Justice, obtained by the news organization last year, said the department’s “Progressive Discipline Matrix,” updated in 2008, was partly to blame.
The matrix allows several types of misconduct, including sexual harassment, to be categorized as either minor or major, permitting “too much discretion,” the report said.
Then-Capt. Raymond Banks (left) and Acting Assistant Chief Alfonso Morales address aldermen. After Morales was appointed chief he promoted Banks to assistant chief.
The letter from the woman’s attorney was sent to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, to La Keisha Butler, executive director of the Fire and Police Commission, and to the city’s human resources administrator.
Chief declines to be interviewed:
Morales was named interim chief in February and within a week named Banks acting assistant chief. Both of those positions were made permanent in April.
Morales declined to be interviewed. He was not required to get the commission’s approval for Banks’ promotion since the chief is entitled to independently choose members of the command staff.
MaryNell Regan confirmed that the Fire and Police Commission received the harassment complaint earlier this year, while she was still executive director of the commission. She referred it to the Police Department for investigation.
Mike Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, said the complaint was hand-delivered to the commission at its March meeting.
The Police Department’s Human Resources staff was supposed to look into the allegations and report back to the commission, Regan said. At the time of her resignation from the commission in April, she had not received the report.
The new executive director, Butler, initially said the commission was unaware of the sexual harassment complaint against Banks at the time of his promotion. She later clarified her remarks, saying she personally did not become aware of the complaint until late May or early June.
She said that by then, the investigation had been closed as unfounded. She said her best estimate as to when it ended was late February.
The letter from woman’s attorney said that although she spoke with two sergeants from internal affairs shortly after filing the complaint in January, she was never formally interviewed. As of last month, she had not been notified that the investigation was closed.
Reached this week, attorney Cross said, “it appears that the Milwaukee Police Department swept the matter under the rug rather than fully investigating and remedying the situation.”
She added: “Equally troubling are the signals this course gives to both male and female members of the Milwaukee Police Department: Males will not be held accountable and females report at their peril, potentially jeopardizing their careers.”
Aside from this particular case, “the community must demand mandatory training and accountability,” Cross said.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he was unaware of the situation until contacted by a reporter Wednesday. He later released a statement saying the city “takes all sexual harassment allegations seriously,” adding that he had referred the matter to the city attorney’s office.
Harassment began in 2006
According to the letter from the woman’s attorney:
Banks began harassing the woman not long after she joined the department in 2006. Banks repeatedly remarked how sexy she was, wondered aloud if she tasted as good as she smelled and told her he could “eat her up” and “toss her salad.”
When Banks met the woman’s mother at a community fundraiser, he introduced himself as her future son-in-law, even though he was already married and the woman had repeatedly brushed off his advances.
In early 2010, he got her phone number from the Police Department directory and called her repeatedly, making sexual remarks and advances. The calls did not stop until she changed her number.