Photo depicting Detective Cookie in uniform waving and smiling at event attendees.

South End Community Support Seattle Detective Who Filed Discrimination Claim Against City and Police Department

by Phil Manzano

Karen Wells stepped outside the meeting room, packed on a bright Saturday with children and parents, as an instructor spoke about chess moves and strategy. She has been bringing her two nieces to the Rainier Beach Community Center for about a year so they can participate in the Detective Cookie Chess Club.

News broke over the weekend that Seattle Police Department Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a $10 million claim against the City of Seattle, alleging a discriminatory and hostile workplace.

“It was very upsetting to me,” said Wells. “I really got angry, but I wasn’t surprised.”

Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin looks on as two girls shake hands before playing a game of chess during a Chess Park Pop-Up on Sunday, June 4, 2018. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Detective Cookie, as she’s known in the South End, started the chess club in 2006 to engage Rainier Beach youth and provide them with a lifelong game to enjoy as well as the lessons it teaches on patience, planning, and strategy. Last September, community members, City officials, along with Mayor Bruce Harrell and Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, opened the Detective Cookie Chess Park at Rainier Avenue and 51st Avenue South.

The chess club is supported by the Seattle Police Foundation among other community groups and has gained positive publicity for the department, including Bouldin traveling with club members for an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show earlier this year.

“I think it’s just wonderful for her to have started [a] chess club in this area of the community because number one it’s underserved, it’s disadvantaged,” Wells said. “For a Black woman to come in and to get this going for the Black community, or just the community at large but specifically I’m going to say the Black community, I think is outstanding.”

Wells’ sentiments are reflected in social media from commenters upset that an officer who they believe reflects the best of policing has had to take the steps of filing a claim against the City.

“It was a brave decision on her part, the community needs to show support,” said Yvette Dinesh, founder of the Colored Girls Garden Club, while operating their free food pantry on 57th Avenue South on Saturday. “It’s a tough thing to do emotionally, particularly when you’re still working … More power to her, more power to her.”

The City of Seattle has 60 days from when the claim was filed on Friday, March 10, to respond to or resolve the claim, said Bellevue attorney James Bible, who represents Bouldin. The claim is a precursor to a civil lawsuit being filed in King County courts if unresolved.

Calls for comment left with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office were not returned in time before publication.

A summary from the claim posted on Bible’s Facebook page says Bouldin has faced gender and race discrimination during her entire 40-year Seattle police career, which began in the 1970s when she was one of only two African American females in the department.

“This discrimination has been ongoing and continuous throughout her entire career,” the claim said. “The level of discrimination Detective Bouldin experienced at the hands of her fellow officers and superiors has had a significant impact on her emotional and physical wellbeing [sic]. Detective Bouldin continues to serve as a member of the Seattle Police Department because of her deep dedication to service. She has stuck with this job for four decades because she believes that she can make a positive difference in the lives of others. She files this claim for damages in the hopes that the department will authentically address issues related to the racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination she has faced during her career. She notes that the hostile work environment she has been subjected to has increased dramatically in recent years.”

An example of the hostile workplace cited in the claim is a picture on a locker of a white man holding a cup of coffee and wearing a military-like tactical vest laden with equipment and the words:

“Some people require inspirational quotes to start their day.
“Me: Caffeine & hate.”

Photos from Detective Denise Bouldin’s claim for damages against the City of Seattle.

“This is about as hostile a work environment as you get,” Bible said, noting the picture is particularly egregious given the officers are working in a diverse community.

The claim for damages outlines numerous incidents including one where Bouldin left fliers on the desk of sergeants to promote an event by the SPD’s African American Advisory Council.

“One white sergeant saw the flier and and said ‘Who put this fuckin shit on my desk’ and threw it down. The same sergeant later made it clear that she did not want to work with any black people.”

Another incident includes being forced to ask permission to move a dog gate that was put in place for another officer to bring their personal dog to the precinct. Though the dog wasn’t present, Bouldin was required to ask permission to move the dog gate.

“Being required to ask a co-worker if she can move a dog gate to the side so that she can get the required materials to do her work is degrading, humiliating, and has racist overtones,” the claim said.

When Bouldin reported that some officers were letting their personal dogs roam the South Precinct, the claim said, she was told she would be transferred to another department. The claim states that Bouldin’s desk and personal items were packed up and “shoved in a corner.”

The claim stated that officers have refused to come to her aid when she needed backup, and that dog feces and dog food have been left in front of her locker.

Wells said she was disturbed that some officers would not back up Bouldin in the field, possibly endangering her safety.

“So in other words, hang her, lynch her, tar and feather her, she’s out there and they don’t care,” Wells said.

Wells said that kind of treatment is horrific, especially given the role model Bouldin has been to young people like her nieces.

“I think it’s wonderful that they can see someone that looks like them,” she said. “And my nieces, for them to see a Black woman and a police officer — let me do the air quotes ‘police officer’ — connecting and in the community, I think it’s something. And if the police department doesn’t change, I don’t know if that’s something that they want to get involved in.”

Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin hugs a young friend during the Rally for Gun Sense and Memorial for Kids Killed by Gun Violence, March 24, 2018, in Columbia Park. The event organized by Moms Demand Action featured several mothers talking about the children they lost to gun violence and how important it is to pass sensible gun laws. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Phil Manzano is a South Seattle writer, editor with more than 30 years of experience in daily journalism, and formerly was the news editor for the Emerald.

📸 Featured Image: Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin, seated next to South Seattle Emerald Board President Devin Chicras, attends a community event at the Rainier Beach Community Center in 2017. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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