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City of Topeka Police Chief Files Response to Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – The City of Topeka and Topeka Police Chief Bryan Wheeles responded to a federal lawsuit filed by 3 female police officers in January.

The lawsuit was filed by Captains Colleen Suart and Jana Harden and Lieutenant Jennifer Cross, accusing the city and Chief Wheeles of gender discrimination in promotions. The three women say they were passed over for promotions to less experienced male officers.

In a response filed Thursday in US District Court in Topeka, the city and Chief Wheeles argued that all of their actions and hiring decisions regarding the 3 female officers were based on non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory grounds.

Council argues that some of the charges cited may be statute barred due to applicable statute of limitations. The argument also refers to qualified immunity and in some cases to absolute immunity because the Municipality and the questore have not violated clearly established rules.

The city’s response calls for the Court to dismiss the complaint and award attorneys’ fees and costs to the city and Chief Wheeles.

If the case goes to trial, the city requests that it be held in Topeka before a jury.

The charges include:

  • Having gone through promotions to deputy chief and major despite having more experience and education than the men being promoted
  • Harden is passed three times for the SWAT team
  • Cross reprimanded over social media video when male officers having objectionable social media content received no reprimand
  • Harden and Stuart advanced for promotion to major when a male officer was selected
  • The TPD has never had a female Deputy Chief and only one major in the department’s history

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