Mary Ferguson (right) has worked for the Sitka Police Department for almost four years.
Published October 15, 2018
SITKA, Alaska — Mary Ferguson, 32, an Alaska Native police officer has filed a lawsuit against her employer, the Sitka Police Department, where she is the only female sworn officer on the police force. The lawsuit filed on Friday, October 12, 2018 alleges she was treated differently because of her gender and punished for complaining about problems within the department, including sexual harrassment.
Mary Ferguson – Class of 2005
The 18-page lawsuit alleges the Sitka Police Department (SPD) is “run like an ‘old boys club’ and is managed and supervised by a group of older, white men who share outdated and sexist attitudes. When these SPD managers are not working together at the SPD, they enjoy drinking beers together and socializing together–meaning there is little or no accountability or actual management in this ‘old boys club.'”
“I’m sad and appalled that it has come to this (lawsuit). My family has been here for generations and it shouldn’t be this difficult to serve your own community. We put our lives at risk as police officers everyday, we shouldn’t have to fear what happens inside the office,” Ferguson told Native News Online.
Ferguson, who is Tlingit, enrolled tribal citizen of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, is the only woman and Alaska Native, currently employed as a sworn officer on the SPD force. She began her career at the SPD as a part-time traffic officer. Ferguson began working as a sworn officer in November 2015 and was promoted to detective in September 2017, where she continued to work as a patrol officer, plus performed detective duties until mid-January 2018. At that time, she became a full-time SPD detective.
The lawsuit describes unwanted sexual advances from a police sergeant, who served as her field training supervisor, a role that involved the sergeant accompanying Ferguson on police patrols for long periods of time. According to the lawsuit, the sergeant, a married man, soon began flirting with Ferguson and eventually began sending her “inappropriate and creepy texts.”
One night the sergeant had Ferguson pull her patrol car into a dark parking lot where he allegedly asked her to kiss him.
Two months after the incident after she finished training, Ferguson reported the sexual advances to a senior manager. Jeff Ankerfelt, within the SPD, who eventually was promoted to the position of chief of police.
Ankerfelt took no action whatsoever, according to Ferguson.
In addition to the sexual harrassment allegation, Ferguson alleges she had to endure non-stop gender discrimination from the “old boys club” at the SPD. Her male superiors constantly questioned her abilities, more than they have those of her male counterparts.
As the result the on-going problems she experienced at the SPD, Ferguson sought help from the city manager of Sitka, Alaska.
She was ultimately demoted from her detective position and told she would have to return to police patrol.
Feguson told Native News Online she is looking for administrative change (meaning the chief and lieutenants fired) and attorney fees.
“I am also asking for my job as sexual assault detective back,” Ferguson commented.
Ferguson has been on administrative leave since July 27, and is supposed to return to work on October 30, 2018.