By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"From the beginning, she says, Kissik and other male officers working with him harassed her and treated her differently from male officers, using vulgar and demeaning language both as harassment and as retaliation for her earlier complaints," the court document said. "Specifically, Gonzalez recounts one occasion in which in her presence Kissik referred to women as 'bitches.' She claims Kissik would not allow her to wear shorts during a heat wave while she was on restricted duty assignment at the precinct switchboard although male officers were allowed to wear shorts. She also declares that, unlike male officers on restricted duty, her tours were regularly changed to night shifts and weekends."
That summer, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau also seemed to be hot on Gonzalez's trail. "The purported subject of the inquiry was Gonzalez's having worn her uniform during an appearance as a character witness at a hearing about her brother at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, although she reports that she actually did not testify." The tortured cop balked. "Gonzalez asserts that the involvement of IA, which normally handles internal investigations of serious police misconduct, was unusual, and that PBA attorneys Kevin Campbell and Robert Browne both expressed surprise that she was being interrogated for that offense. . . . ."
But Gonzalez felt that Browne dropped the ball during the interrogation of her by Internal Affairs. She said that Browne "failed to provide effective assistance while she was asked about a wide variety of subjects that seemed far afield from the uniform incident." What, she wondered, do "drug use and other questions pertaining to her friends and family" have to do with the investigation? Gonzalez, according to the court document, "also inferred that the officers interrogating her had heard about her previous complaints, as evidenced when one of them asked her, when she requested a break, whether she was going to file a sexual harassment complaint against them."
Gonzalez contended that the involvement of Internal Affairs, the suspicious personal questions, and the constant references to sexual harassment, were part of the department's "continuing campaign of retaliation" against her. "While Gonzalez acknowledges that Browne did, in fact, object to the questioning as it strayed farther afield from either the underlying incident or anything she had discussed at the hearing itself, she states that his representation was perfunctory at best, and that Browne ultimately harmed her by recommending that she submit to a psychological evaluation."
After the PBA attorney warned Gonzalez she might be fired if she did not consent to be psyched by department shrinks, she turned in her guns and reluctantly submitted to the evaluation. Gonzalez argued that her attorney failed to notice that the NYPD "all along [was trying] to create evidence in support of charges that she was mentally disturbed rather than genuinely aggrieved by sexual harassment." (In his final ruling regarding the PBA's role, Justice Marrero declared that Gonzalez "has not offered enough factual grounds" to implicate Browne, any other PBA attorney, or the union itself in retaliatory action against her.) Later that summer, Gonzalez was booted from the 50th Precinct and banished to a Bronx courthouse, where she performed menial tasks. She regarded the assignment as "a dumping ground which carries a stigma reserved for officers who have demonstrated difficulties and limitations in their ability to perform regular police functions."
The torment allegedly intensified in the gulag-type environment in which Gonzalez claimed she was forced to work. There, according to Gonzalez, supervisors continued to "attack [her] on a daily basis for a few months" by "verbally yelling, screaming." Her supervisors continued to assign her "undesirable tasks," disciplined her for "minor infractions," and disregarded old injuries she had suffered. Despite an injury she incurred during one such task, Gonzalez continued to work there until June 1995. She was given back her gun and sent back to the 50th Precinct. Back in the hellhole, her harassers allegedly resorted to their old tricks. "What the fuck are you doing here?" Captain Kissik allegedly asked on seeing Gonzalez in his station house. "I thought you were fired."
"We thought you were getting fired," one sergeant chimed in. Then, according to Gonzalez, "Sergeant Gandt harassed me; Sergeant Dunphy threw a bag in my face; my locker was clipped open without any notification." She said when she complained to Kissik about her locker being broken into, the captain "called me a liar and screamed at the sergeant, 'I don't want her in this fuckin' precinct! Get her out of here.' "
In the ensuing months, Kissik allegedly ordered subordinates to "ride" Gonzalez. "I want anything on her," Kissik reportedly demanded. "Keep her out of the precinct." In 1995, superiors once again disarmed Gonzalez after she did not accept one of those "undesirable, stigmatizing" assignments because of a mix-up involving a grand jury appearance. The alleged retaliation continued unabated. Everywhere Gonzalez turned, blue walls caved in on her. In March 1996, she felt her enemies in the department finally had decided to get rid of her. "Gonzalez alleges that one evening . . . two plainclothes police officers appeared at her residence and told her they had been asked to take her somewhere for a drug test," the court document said. "She asserts that, fearing that the officers would harm her, she refused to accompany them and was subsequently charged . . . with refusing to take the [test]."