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Ex-Policewoman Claims Sex Bias in $1-Million Lawsuit

March 14, 1985|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

On one side, there is Shari Verduzco Barberic, a former police officer who says her career was stolen from her because she is a woman, because she married a fellow officer and because of a report that unfairly labeled her as a brutal cop.

On the other side, there is Kenneth Stonebraker, the police chief who says Barberic is a victim of her own psychological problems which she refuses to face.

Between them there stands a $1-million lawsuit, filed against the city of Hawthorne Feb. 21 in U.S. District Court, in which Barberic charges that she was the victim of sex discrimination and was unlawfully deprived of her job under the guise of an involuntary medical retirement in April, 1984. She received $1,100 a month.

"Ms. Barberic was not then and is not now psychologically disabled," said Gloria Allred, Barberic's attorney. "She wants to earn her living and pursue the career she so carefully chose and worked hard to obtain. There is no justification for keeping her out of police work altogether."

Treatment Suggested

Stonebraker said he would like Barberic to come back to work, but she "has to solve her problems first. . . . She is in need of psychiatric treatment."

The Barberic case is the latest skirmish in the Police Department's long battle against the taint of brutality, which was ignited when a confidential report on the escalation of brutality claims during 1982 was leaked to the press in early 1983. The report said that Barberic and three male officers, including her husband, Dennis, were involved in 17 of the 35 incidents that led to misconduct claims. The claims led to an intensification of internal efforts to control police conduct.

Stonebraker said last week that Barberic had more brutality claims filed against her than any other officer during 1982, but he did not specify the number. Barberic denies this, but she says there may have been "four or five" claims against her.

Barberic said she was the only one of the four officers to be taken off patrol, asserting that the department has a "double standard" for male and female officers and that women are discouraged from working as patrol officers.

Pressure Claimed

A year earlier, she claims, she began getting pressure from the police administration because of her marriage.

Denying that Barberic's transfer was discriminatory, Stonebraker said he put her in the detective bureau where she would have less contact with suspects because she refused to cooperate "in anything I was doing to try to change what was happening to her."

He said he talked to the four officers "about cleaning up their act and becoming more professional in police work, and three of them acted accordingly and did a good job." Shari Barberic, he said, did not and "continued to collect claims against her." Barberic denies this.

The chief said he decided to place Barberic, who was then 30, on involuntary disability retirement "because of her mental attitude and condition. My feeling was that by putting her on the streets, she could be a danger to the citizens."

While Barberic denied that she ever engaged in brutality, Stonebraker said he believes--but "can't prove"--that Barberic did. But the city acknowledged that Barberic was never disciplined for misconduct and no claims against her have ever been litigated.

No Cases Pending

Allred released letters from the Justice Department in which it declined to act on three claims of civil rights violations lodged against Barberic by people she arrested. "As far as we know, all brutality cases are closed and none are pending," she said.

Neither side in the dispute will disclose the contents of a crucial psychiatric report on Barberic by Dr. Robert Shomer, the city psychologist, that Stonebraker said was the basis for his decision to retire the former officer.

"The report never said I should be retired," Barberic said. On the other side, City Atty. Michael Adamson said the report indicated that "there were stress-related problems."

An attractive, soft-spoken woman with frosted hair and pale green eyes, Barberic said in an interview that she placed second in her police academy class at Golden West College in Huntington Beach and did so well in field training after joining the Hawthorne department in February, 1981, that she was put on her own without a training officer earlier than usual.

It was her first stab at police work, although she said she had wanted to be an officer for a long time and had earned an associate of arts degree in police administration at El Camino College in 1980.

Dating Fellow Officer

But she said things changed for her in the department after she began dating a fellow patrol officer, whom she married in March of 1982. The two now share a Redondo Beach home with her 11-year-old son by a previous marriage. Dennis Barberic is still with the Hawthorne Police Department.

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