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“I’ve been harassed.” Broward’s police chief vows to sue the city for discrimination

The former police chief of a small town in Broward, who was fired earlier this year amid allegations of mismanagement, defended her actions Thursday before the commission that fired her.

Despite testimony from her and her legal counsel, this did not deter them.

In early April, former Pembroke Park Police Chief Ra Shana Dabney-Donovan was charged with officer misconduct and mishandling of grants. The Pembroke Park Commission dissolved it 3-2.

Under state law, Dabney-Donovan can respond to her firing at a post-fire committee meeting in some sort of lawsuit. Commissioners would have the choice of reversing their decision and rehiring her or allowing the termination to stand.

The former Pembroke Park police chief responded to her firing during a commission meeting Thursday.  She promises to fight discrimination claims.

The former Pembroke Park police chief responded to her firing during a commission meeting Thursday. She promises to fight discrimination claims.

For about 10 minutes Thursday, she and her legal counsel, Stephan Lopez, chose to respond, insisting the allegations against her were “completely false.”

“I have been constantly harassed, slandered and verbally abused,” she said. “I have never neglected the police. I have never mismanaged the police. I have never committed any misconduct.”

She alleged that the firing was used as a cover to conceal discrimination and retaliation against her.

After hearing her testimony, the Pembroke Park Commission let the termination stand without further discussion.

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Dabney-Donovan plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will investigate her claims of discrimination or give her the right to sue Pembroke Park in federal court.

Lopez said he and Dabney-Donovan are prepared to sue the city if push comes to shove.

“I always prepare for the long-term fight,” Lopez said. “There are municipalities that will litigate cases at the taxpayer’s expense. My gut feeling tells me they are going to postpone this.”

He continued to say that her main goal is not monetary compensation but to clear her name.

“No matter how long it takes to clear her good name, she will do it,” he said. “Her reputation means everything to her.”

Dabney-Donovan added, “I have brought a lot of great things to this city. A city that has been neglected by the police in recent years. So I feel like they will feel my loss.

The city appointed interim Police Chief Dan DeCoursey two weeks after Dabney-Donovan’s firing. On Thursday, the commission approved a contract that offered him a job for six months.

DeCoursey told the Miami Herald that he has spoken with staff over the past month and identified problems at the Pembroke Park Police Department.

Small town has a history of perceived discrimination

A former Pembroke Park attorney is actively waging a legal battle against the city, suing them for tormenting her on the job because of her gender and sexual orientation, records show.

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In March, former city attorney Melissa Anderson filed a lawsuit alleging that Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs, former mayor of Pembroke Park, maintained a hostile work environment and discriminated against her because she was a gay woman.

Pembroke Park Commissioner Geoffrey JacobsPembroke Park Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs

Pembroke Park Commissioner Geoffrey Jacobs

The lawsuit accuses Jacobs of referring to her with very coarse and offensive language. The lawsuit also alleges that he sent her a TikTok that she deemed misogynistic, homophobic and threatening.

Anderson began working for the city in September 2020 and was fired in December 2022.

Pembroke Park hired an outside investigator to look into Anderson’s allegations after her firing and found “that [Jacobs’] conduct was likely intimidating and created a hostile work environment,” the lawsuit said.

Jacobs also has a sorted history with current Mayor Ashira Mohammed and Dabney-Donovan.

In February, he was charged with 911 abuse after falsely accusing Mohammed of bringing a gun to a public meeting in November.

READ MORE: Broward City Commissioner Accused Of Falsely Accusing Mayor Of Having A Gun During Rally

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He called the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to report that she was armed and that he was afraid for his life. Dabney-Donovan was informed of the possible danger and went to the commission to report it.

Jacobs stopped her from revealing that he had called. In public and in front of cameras, Mohammed was searched by Dabney-Donovan; no weapon was found.

His case is still pending and Jacobs pleaded not guilty in early April.

‘I want to make it a premiere [police] organization’

Interim Police Chief Dan DeCoursey told the Herald he was prepared to spend the next five months developing plans to address key issues, including understaffing, outdated policies and creating an internal succession plan.

“Obviously, coming from the outside, there are always challenges,” DeCoursey said.

He has worked in law enforcement for the past 46 years and has served as police chief or deputy chief of several agencies. In 2022, he was tasked with helping build a law enforcement unit for the Florida Gaming Control Commission from the ground up.

While the Pembroke Park Police Department has only 14 active law enforcement officers, the agency has a 20-person budget, he said. DeCoursey will be looking for an assistant chief, patrol officers and detectives.

He said he’s focused on revamping the department, helping officers earn a living and helping raise families in the city.

“I came here for the officers, not for me,” he said. “I fix things, I want to make it a premiere [police] organization.”

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