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Former TPD major awarded $569,000 in discrimination lawsuit

Tracie Lewis
Tracie Lewis

A jury has awarded a former high-ranking Tulsa police officer damages in a discrimination lawsuit.

The jury on April 12 ruled former TPD Maj. Tracie Lewis is entitled to $569,000 for being unjustly denied a promotion and for embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish. The lawsuit stems from how she was demoted to patrol officer over false claims levied against her after she refused to bend TPD’s hiring rules, costing her the opportunity to be the department’s first female deputy chief.

The lawsuit says Lewis refused to ignore the department’s educational requirements for an open Internal Services Division position for civilian employee Tina Gustafson. Lewis’ attorney, Mitchell Garrett, says bending the rules for Gustafson would have gone against TPD’s requirement that hiring officers be merit-based, not based on relationships with members of the department.

It was reported that Gustafson told Maj. Rod Hummel that Lewis punched employee Ladonna Scott, and in response, Lewis was demoted to patrol officer.

Gustafson later said she “was pretty confident” that she never made this claim to Hummel.

“They went back several months and they did something that’s called ‘pretext,’ where they go back and find something that she allegedly did wrong,” said Lewis’ attorney Mitchell Garrett.

While demoted, Hummel took Lewis’ position and rewrote the job description “knowing that it would benefit an individual who was unqualified,” according to statements he made under oath cited in the lawsuit.

“Hummel’s revision of the job requirements also allowed Gustafson to bypass at least one African-American candidate who had applied and was qualified for the position,” the lawsuit states.

Garrett says Lewis’ demotion was the largest in the department’s history, and required her to work with the Fraternal Order of Police to return to her old position.

“She was able to get her rank and her back pay back, but unfortunately, the deputy chief spot that everyone was wanting opened up during that time,” he said. “She was number one on the list to get the spot, but she was a patrol person, not a major. So she wasn’t eligible for it.”

Lewis was awarded all but $31,000 requested in her lawsuit.

Tulsa police declined to comment on the verdict. Lewis declined an interview in case the city decides to appeal the ruling.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.