Female Police Officers in California Allege Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

September 21, 2012, by Okorie Okorocha

Within the last 50 years, women have made amazing strides in terms of shattering the glass ceilings that prevented them from entering certain male-dominated fields, let alone excelling within them.policehattoo.jpg

But our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers know we still have a long way to go, as evidenced most recently by lawsuits filed by female police officers against the city and chief in Arroyo Grande.

Of the three complainants, one is the department's 2002 Officer of the Year.

According to the women, they had suffered ongoing offensive and demeaning remarks from a fellow officer. When they took their complaints to the chief, he did not discipline the offending officer. Instead, he offered him a full retirement with no disciplinary action.

Although failure to discipline definitely sends a clear message of where this agency's priorities lie, it might have all ended there - had the city and the chief not in turn retaliated against the female officers who had initially complained.

After the offending officer left the agency, the mayor called a mandatory department meeting. At that meeting, he reportedly dressed the women down for making allegations he suspected were a "misunderstanding," and which he expected to be cleared up.

Now first of all, it's important to note that California law prohibits a mayor and council members from directly advising or supervising city employees, other than the city manager and the city attorney. But secondly, such statements not only serve to invalidate the women's claims, they are a clear act of hostility.

When the women went back to the chief, requesting that he address the remarks, he allegedly refused.

This may not be surprising, considering that the chief reportedly has a history of problems with sexual harassment. Local news reports indicate that about a decade ago, when the chief was serving at a department in Colorado, several female officers complained to him about sexual harassment they were suffering. But instead of addressing it head on, he reportedly took various actions against the complainants. As a result, the city settled two lawsuits out of court for a total of $72,500. Background checks performed on the chief prior to his being hired at Arroyo Grande failed to turn up evidence of the past case.

But the chief's actions in the most recent case don't end there. The complaints also allege that male officers were favored for promotions over more qualified female officers. Additionally, male officers practicing at the shooting range were given the courtesy of being allowed to shoot in their t-shirts, while female officers were required to wear vests and uniform tops. Plus, female officers were made to undergo regular "grooming checks," whereas male officers were not.

While the city has denied allegations of biased treatment, at least one of the lawsuits is moving forward and is expected to be heard sometime early next year. Two of the three women are still employed at the agency, though they are currently on medical leave for work-related injuries.

We understand how incredibly difficult it can be for a police officer to allege they have been a victim. But at the end of the day, seeking justice is often necessary to effect change.

If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in Los Angeles, contact The Okorocha Firm at 1 (800) 285-1763.

Additional Resources:
Sex harassment claims against AG police chief could go to trial next year, Sept. 14, 2012, By Cynthia Lambert, San Luis Obispo Tribune

More Blog Entries:
Clothing Retailer Facing Alarming Sex Harassment Claims, Sept. 14, 2012, Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog