K-9 Leo and Yvonne Edwards. (Minneapolis Police Department)
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A 34-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department is suing the city after she says her supervisor in the K-9 unit discriminated against her on the basis of age and sex.
Yvonne Edwards, of Savage, Minn., is the Plaintiff in the lawsuit, which centers around the "discriminatory environment" allegedly created by K-9 unit supervisor Sgt. Andy Stender. The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County District Court Monday.
“While Stender oversaw the K-9 unit, he created a discriminatory environment within the unit for several years,” the lawsuit reads. “Specifically, he demonstrated discriminatory animus toward women such as Plaintiff.”
Edwards alleges a variety of discriminatory behavior from the K-9 unit boss, including promoting less experienced male officers into positions for which she applied.
Additionally, the lawsuit outlined a mandatory K-9 handler training course, in which Edwards allegedly was given unsuitable dogs while other officers received better-behaved animals.
“All of the male officers who participated in the course received dogs suitable for police work. However, Stender assigned a female officer a dog that could not perform the tasks necessary for police work. When the female officer’s dog was later removed, Stender again assigned the officer a dog that was unsuitable for police work – this time assigning her an overly aggressive dog.”
In addition, two days before the end of the course, Stender removed Edwards’ dog from her and assigned her a new one, which caused her to have to repeat the 12-week course.
When Edwards complained, another supervisor said he would have reversed the decision and apologized, but he was transferred out of the K-9 unit.
The lawsuit also pointed to an incident when Edwards applied for a bomb-sniffing dog, which would earn her more money in overtime pay, but the sergeant said another bomb dog was not needed in the department. Three months later, however, another male officer was given a bomb dog.
The lawsuit alleges a number of other offenses, including the sergeant denying Edwards overtime pay given to male colleagues, not responding to her requests to leave work early while allowing male officers to leave early, and the sergeant’s discriminatory actions toward other women in the department.
In addition to discrimination, the lawsuit includes allegations of sexual harassment against the sergeant and possible favoritism for women who engaged in sexual relations with him.
Finally, the lawsuit says the sergeant stalked Edwards while she was on duty, which was backed up by GPS data. The sergeant was issued a no-contact order by another sergeant for these actions, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit calls for one count of violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act and damages in excess of $50,000.
According to a Minneapolis Police spokesperson, both the sergeant and Edwards are still employees of the department.
When asked for comment, the city of Minneapolis provided this statement from City Attorney Susan Segal: “The City has received the lawsuit and we are in the process of reviewing the complaint. Equity is a core value of the City, and we take allegations of discrimination very seriously.”