When Seattle Police Department (SPD) Captain Deanna Nollette told Chief of Police Adrian Diaz that SPD’s other women employees might not want to participate in a flag football competition against the men in the department for a team-building exercise, Diaz allegedly told her that the women could instead be cheerleaders, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month in King County Superior Court.

The sex and wage discrimination lawsuit, filed by Nollette, comes just months after prominent Black SPD detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a lawsuit in November alleging years of racial and gender discrimination from SPD’s top brass. 

Like Bouldin, Nollette has worked for SPD for a long time, about 27 years. Before Mayor Bruce Harrell installed Diaz as permanent chief, Nollette had risen to the rank of assistant chief of the Criminal Investigations Bureau. 

In the lawsuit, Nollette listed examples of Diaz’s “history of misogyny.” She claimed he excluded women commanders from social events, said women should not hold leadership positions in the police force, and favored men over women when it came to travel, training, and networking opportunities. She also included the weird flag football anecdote, which, if true, suggests that Diaz wanted to literally relegate women employees to the sidelines while the men bonded as a team on the field. 

Nollette asked for monetary relief from the court, which included backpay, emotional distress damages, and attorneys fees.

SPD has not filed a response to the lawsuit and said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation. Diaz and SPD have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit filed by Nollette on January 8.

One kind of weird part of Nollette’s lawsuit shows she first filed a discrimination complaint with the City against then-interim Chief Diaz back in February of 2022, but she asked the City to wait to investigate the complaint, as she planned to apply for the position of SPD police chief and wanted to know who had the job before the City followed up on it, according to Nollette’s attorney, Judith Lonnquist. But the City ignored Nollette’s request and began investigating the complaint, though so far the City has taken no action against Diaz, according to the lawsuit.

When Diaz ultimately took over as chief of SPD, he demoted Nollette to captain, alongside another assistant chief who also applied for the top job. Nollette said she took medical leave from July 3 to November 2023 due to the “emotional toll” of Diaz’s alleged discrimination. When she returned, she claims Diaz told her to report to a captain he’d just promoted–a white man with less experience than her. 

According to a December SPD roster, Nollette now works in the Metropolitan Bureau under Assistant Chief Daniel L. Nelson, who joined the department after Nollette, according to his command staff bio. That bureau oversees the department’s traffic section, crisis response team, alternative response team, community response group, and operations center. With Nollette’s demotion, men comprise almost all of Diaz’s command staff. Lesley Cordner, the one exception, heads the Professional Standards Bureau.

In 2022, while Nollette headed the SPD’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, someone from within SPD leaked an internal memo showing that the department’s sexual assault and child abuse unit had stopped investigating adult sexual assault cases because of a lack of staffing. Further reporting from the Seattle Times showed that Nollette suspected SPD Sgt. Pamela St. John, who headed the department’s sexual assault unit, of leaking the memo. With Diaz’s backing, Nollette then filed a complaint with the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) against St. John for violating SPD policy by leaking information to the press, though the OPA found no evidence St. John leaked the memo.