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WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - D.C. Assistant Police Chief Chanel Dickerson made a stunning claim at a community meeting Tuesday night saying she was told to have an abortion or be fired when she was a cadet. Now, another D.C. officer is coming forward, saying she too was told to end her pregnancy to keep her job.
Karen Arikpo says she's never spoken to anyone about this experience, not even her husband, until now.
"I just thought this was something I would take to my grave," she told FOX 5.
Arikpo has been a DC police officer for 24 years, a career she says was built on a painful secret. She says in 1997 when she was a recruit in the police academy, she got pregnant.
"I thought I could hide it," she says. "Just get through the academy and hide it."
Arikpo says during that time, her sergeant, a woman, told her class of recruits something that would change her life.
"If we were pregnant we needed to get an abortion or we would be fired," Arikpo says. "So later that day, I went and told my class sergeant that I was pregnant. And she said I needed to have an abortion and she referred me to a doctor in D.C. to get it done."
She said she never told another person until this morning when she saw FOX 5's reporting on Assistant Chief Dickerson who said the same thing happened to her when she was an 18-year-old police cadet in the late 1980s.
Dickerson spoke at a community meeting Tuesday night.
"My choice to have a baby was personal and it should’ve been mine alone and not for an employer ultimatum," Dickerson said.
Dickerson is now among 10 Black women suing the department for $100 million claiming discrimination and harassment. Her abortion claim is not part of that suit.
Dickerson and Arikpo were in the same recruit class in 1997. Both Dickerson and a male officer in that class corroborate what Aripko says the sergeant told them about the consequences of getting pregnant. They say that sergeant isn’t with the department now.
Arikpo says she called Dickerson after realizing she wasn’t alone.
She said if she could go back in time, she would have quit and kept her baby.
"It’s so unfair," she says. "And now I’ve never been able to have a kid. All these years, I’ve tried and I’ve never been able to have a baby."
She says fertility treatment didn’t work. And it’s clear she blames herself when she speaks of the regret and the shame.
"I did this for a job," she says. "And then to want kids and can’t have them. How do you tell people that?"
DC Police responded to FOX 5's request for comment on this matter saying:
"These comments were made as part of the current lawsuit, so we decline to offer a response due to the pending litigation."
FOX 5 has responded to DC Police, saying these specific claims are not part of that suit.
FOX 5 also asked what happens today when recruits and cadets get pregnant now. The department said:
"If a recruit gets pregnant while at the academy, she will be placed in a future class upon completion of her leave. If a cadet gets pregnant, she would continue the educational piece with modified PT per guidance of a medical professional."