Police sued for sexual harassment

Publication Date: Friday Dec 24, 1999

EAST PALO ALTO: Police sued for sexual harassment

Former officer alleges unwanted advances, retaliation by colleagues

by Charlie Breitrose

The much-maligned East Palo Alto Police Department received another black eye this month. For the third time in three years, members of the department have been accused of sexual harassment by a female officer. Former officer Gina Garibaldi filed the suit against the department, the city, Chief Wes Bowling and former police Sgt. John Chalmers in San Mateo Superior Court on Dec. 2. The suit alleges that members of the East Palo Alto Police Department engaged in sexual harassment, discrimination and that the defendant suffered retaliation for her complaint of harassment and, ultimately, wrongful termination.

Both Bowling and East Palo Alto City Attorney Michael Lawson said they had not seen the suit and would not comment on the matter.

Garibaldi was "subjected to unwanted grabbing, kissing and touching," as well as unwanted sexual advances, while on the force, the suit alleges. She also accuses a training officer of entering the women's dressing room, often, while she was only partially dressed.

Despite the fact that Garibaldi says that her supervisors observed or were told of the harassment, no steps were taken to stop the behavior, according to the suit. When Garibaldi complained to her superiors, including Bowling, about the acts, she was reportedly told the actions did not constitute sexual harassment.

After her complaints, Garibaldi was returned to officer training. At the same time, one of the officers accused of sexual harassment-- Chalmers--was promoted. Chalmers has since been fired by the department.

Garibaldi filed complaints of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and retaliation with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The department issued a right-to-sue letter.

According to the suit, Garibaldi was fired on June 3, 1998.

The suit is asking that Garibaldi be reinstated on the police force and is seeking compensation for paying wages and benefits lost during that time, as well as attorney's fees.

The East Palo Alto Police Department have a history of sexual harassment complaints.

In 1997, a female officer sued the department after she was allegedly molested while handcuffed by a training officer during a training exercise. The officer accused was promoted to sergeant after the complaint was filed. The city of East Palo Alto agreed to pay the female officer, who is no longer in the department, $100,000 in February.

Earlier this year, another female officer filed a sexual harassment suit because fellow officers, among other things, reportedly squeezed her buttocks and kissed her forcibly. One of the officers named in the suit was Chalmers. 

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