By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
A Manhattan federal court judge, hinting at the NYPD's alleged mistreatment of its female officers, has cleared the way for a Latina former cop to proceed with a sex-harassment lawsuit she filed against her supervisors and the department.
In a mixed ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero allowed Gloria Gonzalez to pursue charges that she had suffered "discrimination based on [a] hostile environment, sexual harassment, and retaliation" while she was assigned to two station houses in the Bronx from 1992 to '96. Justice Marrero, however, threw out Gonzalez's claim of gender discrimination and dismissed her allegation that the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) ignored her complaints and intimidated her by warning her that she would be fired.
In a stinging commentary on Gonzalez's alleged ordeal, dated August 21, Marrero writes: "Gonzalez's accusations, if sustained by a jury, may be read to convey this much: when the history of the New York City Police Department's treatment of its women officers is told, the chapter this case records may not recount one of its finest moments."
The ruling comes on the heels of a strongly worded letter the Latino Officers Association (LOA) sent to Merrill Lynch, asking the stock brokerage giant to "rescind the appointment" of former first deputy commissioner Patrick Kelleher. "During his [initial] years as First Deputy Commissioner, myself and members of other organizations have noticed that Mr. Kelleher has had serious problems relating [to] and interacting with people of color," LOA president Anthony Miranda said in the August 2 letter to David Komansky, Merrill Lynch's chair and CEO. "Why Merrill Lynch would consider such an individual who, as the number two person in the Police Department, has plunged police/community relations to some of its lowest points in recent years, is disconcerting."
In July, Kelleher, 53, confirmed that he had taken a job at Merrill Lynch, just weeks before his boss, Howard Safir, announced his intention to step down. Kelleher, who will become Merrill Lynch's director of worldwide security, will be in charge of fraud control, executive protection, corporate security, the ethics hotline, and physical security for the firm's 68,600 employees. Kelleher has been criticized for lacking sensitivity toward minority cops involved in disciplinary proceedings within the police department. Records obtained by the Daily News show that blacks and Latinos, who represent 30.4 percent of the force, make up 44.4 percent of the dismissals since 1994, when Gloria Gonzalez was in the throes of her sex-discrimination battle with the NYPD. In his letter, Miranda pointed out that "numerous lawsuits alleging serious misconduct" by black and Latino cops against Kelleher are pending in federal courts. "Will your corporation, with its outstanding reputation, use Mr. Kelleher to retaliate against people of color who file [equal employment opportunity] or court complaints at Merrill Lynch?" Miranda asked.
When Gloria Gonzalez became a cop in 1984, she joined a male-dominated police department some say is notorious for sexually harassing female officers, especially rookies. Gonzalez found out that keeping her mouth shut about sexual predators with badges ensured she would survive her crucial initiation and possibly move up in the ranks. According to Justice Marrero's 77-page document, Gonzalez "alleges having experienced some level of sexual harassment" during those early years but "made no official complaints."
Because Gonzalez's muted protests never raised eyebrows, she continued "receiving positive evaluations" from her superiors for several years. Even when Gonzalez was reassigned to the 45th Precinct station house in 1990, she remained an exemplary cop. Lieutenant Lawrence Powell took a liking to the young officer, but his feelings for her allegedly grew obsessive in 1992. "Gonzalez claims that, to her growing discomfort, Powell asked her out on dates, changed her work assignments in order to cause her to be with him outside the precinct, and touched and spoke to her in an inappropriate and suggestive manner," the court document said. "She also asserts that Powell, in order to gauge her reactions to his advances, would often point out Gonzalez's strong resemblance to his former girlfriend. Finally, Gonzalez states that Powell, chastising her for 'not playing the game,' harassed her for not responding to his advances by using his authority over her work to control her schedule generally, by rearranging her assignments and by denying her leave requests and the vacation days she had selected."
The alleged harassment was too much even for an ambitious Latina cop to bear. Between April and May 1994, Gonzalez complained to the department's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. "Gonzalez claims that immediately after she filed her internal OEEO complaint, Powell's behavior toward her changed, in that he became abusive, finding fault with her work, berating her, and reassigning her to positions away from him and outside the station house," the court document added. "Powell also allegedly told Gonzalez that she would regret it if she did not rescind her complaint."
Gonzalez sought help from Richard Ragogna, the PBA delegate, who was stationed in the 45th Precinct. But Ragogna allegedly advised Gonzalez to 'watch [her] back' when ratting on superior officers, because she might face retaliation. Ragogna reportedly sat on her complaint. Acting on the advice of her supervisor, Gonzalez transferred to the 50th Precinct, also in the Bronx. But Powell allegedly continued to retaliate against Gonzalez by alerting her new supervisors that Gonzalez had squealed on cops before. Powell also had charged that Gonzalez had stolen a picture of his ex-girlfriend. Gonzalez reportedly did not fare well under precinct captain Anthony Kissik.