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2 Ex-Long Beach Policewomen Settle Sex Harassment Lawsuit : Courts: City will pay nearly $3 million. The officers' story was the subject of a TV movie.

October 14, 1993|ROXANA KOPETMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two former Long Beach policewomen who earlier won a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city settled their case Wednesday for nearly $3 million.

Former officers Melissa Clerkin and Lindsey Allison, whose complaints of sexual harassment became the subject of a television movie, agreed to the settlement more than two years after a jury awarded them $3.1 million. The city, in turn, agreed to drop its appeal of that verdict.

"I'm glad it's finally coming to a close," said Clerkin, who complained that male officers refused at times to provide her backup assistance, called her vulgar names and sent her offensive messages over police computers.

Clerkin, 38, said male colleagues retaliated against her after she complained that her supervisor, her former lover, threatened her when their relationship of several years ended in 1986. "What they did was atrocious," Clerkin said.

Allison, 35, testified that as the first woman in the department's prestigious canine unit, she was greeted with hostility and exposed to graphic sexual language, ridicule and isolation from her unit. She said she was placed in physical danger by fellow officers who allowed their dogs to attack her.

The women's story was the basis of the movie, "With Hostile Intent," broadcast earlier this year.

Assistant City Atty. Robert E. Shannon said the city chose to settle for $2.975 million because the amount could have reached $4.3 million--once attorney fees and interest were included--if Long Beach lost on appeal.

With the settlement, Clerkin receives $906,300, Allison gets $803,700, their lawyer receives $1.14 million and $125,000 goes to other costs. Before Wednesday's settlement, the city owed the women $3.1 million in damages and $700,000 in attorney fees and interest.

Long Beach police officials declined to comment on the settlement, but noted that the case helped bring attention to the issue of sexual harassment and prompted additional training for officers.

In addition to teaching officers "don't do this and don't do that," spokesman Bob Anderson said, "we're trying to change attitudes as well."

"When the allegations came up, the administration recognized we had to better train our employees," said Cmdr. Dale Brown, who heads the department's internal affairs unit. "(The lawsuit) also hurt us. It didn't do much for the image of the department."

During a monthlong trial in 1991, Clerkin, Allison and other policewomen testified that sexual harassment was endemic in the Long Beach Police Department and that supervisors did little or nothing to stop it.

Both Allison and Clerkin left the police force in 1988 and have since retired on stress-related disability claims.

Allison, who has moved to an undisclosed location, now is working part time in a non-police field, according to her attorney, Barbara Hadsell. "She's trying to get on with her life," Hadsell said.

Clerkin said she has struggled with depression since her departure from the department but looks forward to putting her life back together.

"Just because you win in court, it doesn't erase everything," she said. "This is really uplifting to my spirits. I can get on with my life."

Clerkin, who now lives in the Eastern Sierra, said she plans to apply to UCLA, where she hopes to study teaching, social work or a related field.

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