Yvonne “Bonnie” Edwards has over 34 years of experience as a police officer. By the time she asked Sergeant Andy Stender, a career officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, about taking a position as a trainer for the force’s K-9 handlers, she’d already worked on seven different units. She’d spent nine years on SWAT. She’d become the first female police sniper in the nation.
And Stender’s response to her was allegedly this: “We’ve had enough women." He gave the job to a less-senior, male handler.
According to a complaint Edwards filed in Hennepin County District Court on Tuesday, this was just one example of the “animosity” she experienced under Stender. When Edwards was first training to become a K-9 handler in 2014, he was in charge of her 12-week training course. Two days before graduation, he took her dog – with which she’d been working the entire time -- and assigned it to another female officer, breaking her bond with the dog and forcing her to take the 12-week course again.
When she was taking the course the second time, Stender allegedly turned to her and asked, “Why don’t you just retire?”
Edwards didn’t retire, even when she says Stender made it exceedingly difficult to be there. When she requested to go home early, sometimes he simply wouldn’t answer her texts. When she later asked to take charge of a bomb-sniffing dog – a more lucrative position for handlers -- she says he told her they didn’t have any openings. Three months later he gave the job to a less-experienced male handler.
And it wasn’t just Edwards. In 2016, Stender allegedly tried to get another female officer to quit by refusing to provide her with a standard squad car for two months – requiring her to pay for her own gas, insurance, and wear-and-tear while she conducted policework. The woman says she reported this to HR, but Stender remained in his position.
In 2017, after Edwards transferred to another shift to avoid Stender, she noticed he was following her around in his squad car while she was on duty. She caught sight of him tailing her on four separate occasions, sometimes for miles. Once he called her with his personal cellphone while his car was sitting a block away. When she complained about it to a supervisor, she says she was met with a resigned nod and told she was the third person to report him. He was placed under a no-contact order until further notice, which Edwards says he violated by calling her that same day.
Even under a no-contact order, Stender continued to show up wherever Edwards happened to be -- once she says he waited for her to come out of the bathroom, glaring at her from his office doorway, following her every footstep until she reached the exit of the building. Edwards says her career suffered, her colleagues grew more distant -- nobody, allegedly, wanted to get on Stender’s bad side -- and her supervisor continued to harangue her, even going out of his way to judge her regular training courses.
She told HR about the stalking a month later, and she says yet another month went by with no word from the department. She went to the union. She went to the chief.
The last incident in the complaint took place in May 2018. Edwards is still on the K9 unit, and is its only female officer; Stender is no longer working in her unit, but he’s still employed at the police department. Edwards, who is filing suit against the city for damages up to $50,000, says Stender’s harassment kept her from getting lucrative positions and side jobs, and made her work environment a living hell.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson John Elder said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation, but Attorney Susan Segal says her office is “in the process” of reviewing the complaint.
“Equity is a core value of the city, and we take allegations of discrimination very seriously,” she says.