After her supervisor started hounding her at work and following her around in his police squad car, Yvonne “Bonnie” Edwards complained to his bosses, who ordered him to stay away from her.
Instead, his campaign of harassment and intimidation continued unchecked for months, the veteran K-9 trainer alleges in a lawsuit accusing the city of Minneapolis of failing to rein in the supervisor, Sgt. Andy Stender. Stender’s conduct not only left her emotionally spent, but forced her to work in a hostile environment, after her unit colleagues started shunning her for fear of getting on his bad side, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court, seeks $50,000 in damages.
A 34-year veteran of the force, Edwards said Stender’s “hostility toward women” kept her from pursuing lucrative off-duty assignments and alienated her from her fellow unit members. Edwards has been a K-9 officer for 19 years, after stints in seven other units, including nine years on the SWAT team, during which time she became the first female police sniper in the country, the suit says.
On several occasions, Edwards alleges that Stender demanded that she retire or made disparaging remarks about her age or gender. One time, he reportedly told her, “We’ve had enough women,” while denying her request to become a dog trainer. Another time, he took the “unprecedented” step of taking away her K-9 partner two days before they were scheduled to graduate from a three-month handler class, the suit claims.
Edwards remains in the unit as its only female officer, but Stender is no longer there, police records show.
A message left for Edwards’ lawyer, Nicholas G.B. May, wasn’t immediately returned. Police spokesman John Elder said the department could not comment on pending litigation, referring questions to City Attorney Susan Segal, who said through a spokesman that her office was reviewing the suit.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, declined to comment Tuesday because both officers are represented by the union. He also declined to make Stender available for an interview.
Since joining the force in 1992, Stender has received numerous commendations, including twice being awarded the Medal of Commendation and also receiving the Medal of Valor for his role in the police response to the mass shooting at Accent Signage. He was also one of the officers involved in the 2013 fatal police shooting of Terrance Franklin.
According to Edwards’ lawsuit, other women in the unit were also targets of his “animosity,” as were male officers who spoke up in defense of Edwards, she alleged.
Other times, Edwards contends she was passed over for assignments in favor of less experienced male colleagues.
According to the lawsuit, Edwards complained up the command chain and to the police union, eventually reaching Assistant Chief Mike Kjos and Chief Medaria Arradondo.
She said she transferred to a different shift to get away from Stender. But over a two-month period in late 2017, he started following her around in a marked squad car while she was on duty, the lawsuit contends. After one such episode, in November of that year, Stender was served a no-contact order, instructing him to stay away from Edwards during work hours, the suit says.
But he continued showing up at places where he knew she would be, often forcing her to leave, according to the suit.
“The lawsuit claims that Stender began referring to Edwards as a snitch to other officers in the unit after learning that she had lodged a complaint against him.
The matter was referred to the department’s HR division in late 2017, but nothing was ever done, Edwards said.