FOX 5 Investigation results in DC police building private lactation rooms for breastfeeding officers

A FOX 5 Investigation is getting real results for D.C. police officers who happen to be new mothers. FOX 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Emily Miller's story last November showed the D.C. Police Department was not in compliance with federal standards for lactation rooms in three of its stations. This week, the department has completed the necessary repairs for two of those.

We have great news about our reporting that led to real results for police officers that are new mothers.

My exposé in November showed the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was not in compliance with federal standards for lactation rooms in three of the stations.

This week, the department has completed the necessary repairs for two of those.

MPD still insists it was not violating federal law, but the proof is in the construction.

Several police officers who are breastfeeding mothers talked to me about the problem, but only one -- Officer Kalihah Barber -- would take the risk of going on camera.

She said that she couldn't believe it when she first saw the construction on the bathroom.

"I wasn't too sure until I saw the door separating the bathroom from the lactation room," said Kalihah. "And I went up there two days in a row to confirm that's what they were doing."

She is a patrol officer in the Fifth District. She has been fighting to get a private lactation room since she had the first of her two daughters in 2011.

"I didn't think it was going to happen. Not at all," she said in an interview on Wednesday. "I just thought they were going to fight me tooth and nail as they've done over the last three years."

Under the Obamacare law, companies with more than 50 employees have to provide mothers a lactation room that is private and can be locked while in use. It can't be near an open toilet.

As our investigation showed, MPD had three stations that we not in compliance with federal standards -- the Second, Fourth and Fifth Districts.

Now two of the stations' rooms are fixed.

Our undercover video showed that the lactation room at Kalihah's station was in the bathroom.

So we started asking questions. And then the construction began.

And our new video taken on Wednesday shows a secure, clean place at the Fifth District for police officers to pump.

And over at the Fourth District, you used to have to go through the lactation room to get to the bathroom. Our new video from Thursday shows that there are now two separate rooms for breastfeeding and going to the bathroom.

The D.C. police union has been filing grievances for mothers since the health care law went into effect in 2011. But until our story aired, nothing happened.

MPD still refuses to admit any fault.

While the construction was going on, Chief Lanier's spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump emailed that they were just making the "rooms more inviting." However she said that "we were in compliance with the federal law from the beginning."

Delroy Burton, the chairman of the union, responded that, "She can say that. But it's not true. It is absolutely not true because of where the rooms physically were, how you had to access them, were not in compliance with federal law."

The lactation room in the Second District police station is the same. An officer pumping her breast milk is in open view to anyone who walks in the bathroom.

Burton says he can't understand why the department continues to be so resistant.

"It's some dry wall. Move some doors around and have a separate entrance. Different labeling -- and then you are in compliance," he said. "And I know the cost was not significant."

I asked Lanier's spokeswoman when the Second District would get done. Crump would only say that "normal budget includes annual maintenance upgrades."

Kalihah says that is not good enough.

"Every district needs to be in compliance," she said. "That's my goal."

But Kalihah told me that she took the enormous career risk of going on camera because she is setting an example for her daughters.

"It was definitely worth it," she said. "I hope I break the cycle of officers afraid to speak out. Like this mentality that if you speak out, you'll get punished. I hope it ends."

Kalihah is grateful to us for doing this story and making a real change. But I'm in awe of her.

It takes such bravery to stand up for what is right and lawful -- and risk retaliation. Kalihah said nothing negative has happened to her. And her fellow officers have been congratulating her for finally getting these lactation rooms built.

Related Stories:

FOX 5 gets results for breastfeeding DC police officers

ACLU looking into DC Police Department's breastfeeding policies

DC Police Department violates federal breastfeeding law

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