Many people believe this could be dubbed the “Year of the Woman” with the amount of women shattering glass ceilings in male-dominated professions. Hillary Clinton could potentially be the first woman president and Darby Township, earlier this year, appointed the first African-American female police chief in the state.
But has Chester City regressed since its first highest-ranking woman in the Chester Police Department decided to step down and return to a lower rank?
Was her action really “voluntary” or was it a demotion, as many in the community believe?
Marilyn Lee was appointed a Chester police major in January at the start of Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland’s administration. At last week’s Council meeting, Kirkland publicly said Lee has “voluntarily stepped down” to the rank of captain in response to the city’s financial recovery plan that calls for reductions in the police department.
“I (thank) Maj. Marilyn Lee for her services and her work here in the community.” Kirkland said. He called her “a team player” and blamed “financial challenges here in the city” for the change in Lee’s career path. Kirkland said Lee, in stepping back from being the city’s first female major to becoming a captain again, was actually a leap forward for the city.
He said she “stepped up.” “When I say stepped up, we were short captains,” Kirkland said. “Maj. Lee was one of the few to pass the captain’s test, a very difficult test to pass. (She) voluntarily stepped back so that Chester can move forward.”
Kirkland, perhaps aware of “street talk,” said, “Before the rumor mill gets started, (Lee) was never, ever demoted. She willingly and voluntarily took a step back so the city could move forward and begins her leadership role as captain. As mayor and Council, that will never go forgotten.”
However, sources close to the Chester Police Department assert that Lee was demoted because of an alleged “abundance of civilian and departmental complaints” against her. Sources said Kirkland’s glowing explanation was just a diplomatic tactic to “help (Lee) go peacefully.”
Lee’s move backward removes her from management and returns her to union member-status,
Neither police Commissioner Darren Alston nor Kirkland would return multiple calls seeking further comment. Kirkland’s office even denied a written request for an interview. Lee attended the Council meeting, dressed in plainclothes, accepted the praise and a standing ovation, but left before speaking to any reporter. Attempts to reach her through the commissioner’s office were not successful.