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Five Employees Sue Glendale Police Dept.

Lawsuit: The women, including four officers, contend they were abused after filing complaints. City officials say the allegations were found to have no merit.

January 05, 2002|KRISTINA SAUERWEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Five female employees have sued the Glendale Police Department, alleging sexual assault and harassment, discrimination and emotional distress.

Officials said the city has hired an independent law firm and is investigating the allegations. Those include rape, fondling, physical abuse and retaliation after the women filed complaints with the city, according to the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Some Glendale officials criticized the lawsuit, noting that the city had investigated several of the allegations, some of which date back to the early 1990s, and determined they had no merit.

"I have to question why someone is resurrecting these allegations," Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard said. "I am confident the truth will come out. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace harassment. . . . For now, the allegations are just that."

The women, four sworn officers and a civilian, still work in the department. Their attorney said the lawsuit stems from years of inappropriate conduct that the department has failed to correct, including incidents during the last year.

"These women did not wake up one day and say, 'I'm going to claim harassment,' " said Bradley Gage, a Woodland Hills attorney. "They've suffered for years. . . . The city did not correct the matter. The women could no longer be silent."

Although the lawsuit specifies no dollar amount, Gage said the women are seeking emotional and punitive damages for hospital and doctor bills, as well as lost earnings from passed-up promotions and decreased employee benefits.

Gage also said the city should punish the alleged offenders, and the department should hire more women to make it a more hospitable workplace.

City officials said 9% of Glendale's 235 sworn officers are women.

"We don't feel our ratio compared to other agencies would be out of whack," said Sgt. Bruce Fox, a spokesman. "We're always trying to recruit women," but like other police departments, have had trouble in recent years, he said.

Women make up 7% and 10% of the sworn officers in the Burbank and Long Beach police departments, and in the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments, they make up 19% and 15% of the force, respectively.

The lawsuit lists the plaintiffs as Kathryn Frieders, Linda Daidone, Jamie Franke, Renae Kerner and Carla Haupt. Glendale Police Chief Russell Siverling deferred questions to the city attorney. "I am saddened by the nature of the allegations," Siverling said. "We're going to do a thorough investigation."

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