Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The dollars and sense of sexual harassment

A former LAPD deputy chief admits that he had an affair with a subordinate employee, during a deposition that was taken two months ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. The deposition arose from a law suit filed by another officer, Ya-May Christie, who accused him of rewarding female subordinates who had sex with him with promotions.


In the deposition, Michael Berkow, who is married, said he met Sgt. Andrea Balter in 2003 and had sex with her over the next three years. Until January 2005, she worked for the internal affairs division as an advocate, a kind of internal prosecutor handling police misconduct cases, including those involving inappropriate sexual relationships.

Berkow's attorney, Clint D. Robison, said his client did not report the relationship to his commanding officer, Police Chief William J. Bratton, because although Berkow was Balter's ultimate boss, she did not report directly to him. "In his opinion, [the relationship] wasn't reportable," Robison said.

Reaction from the city council in Los Angeles was predictably harsh.


"These developments are very disturbing and are shocking to me," said L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss, who heads the Public Safety Committee.

"There is no question this is quite serious. This is the top official in the department charged with monitoring the behavior of cops."

His grasp of the obvious has been repeated by others who ask how a person who headed a division that investigates the misconduct of police officers including sexual misconduct be able to do that while engaging in that behavior himself? Well, maybe it's those who work in the department and elected city officials who oversee its budget who are asking that question. For most everyone else, it's rhetorical at best.

And while Berkow even after he has admitted engaging in some sexual misconduct is still called "hard-working" and a "dedicated professional" by his boss, Chief William Bratton, it's unclear what is being said about either the women who were involved in the misconduct with him or the woman who may have blown the whistle on it. But then whistle blowers in any law enforcement agency are often harshly received by just about everyone inside it. Although there were some complaints here about the double standards that exist with how Bratton refers to Berkow in comparison to comments he made about an officer who was caught on videotape performing a chokehold on a handcuffed teenage Latino in a holding room.

Berkhow now works in Savannah, Georgia and the city manager there, Michael Brown, told the Los Angeles Times that the city knew that Berkhow had engaged in an onduty affair and wished that more details about Berkhow had been known before his hiring. Although it has been said many times when hiring laterals, law enforcement agencies are taking a calculated risk at hiring someone who may be proven, but who could also be fleeing accountability for misconduct in the original agency. So did those at the LAPD know about Berkhow's proclivities(as one commenter at the LAPD's blog suggested) and foist him on an unsuspecting Savannah? At any rate, those in Georgia are now in the know.

Across the country in Queens, New York, another law suit filed by a female police officer alleging sexual harassment against her supervisor was settled for $250,000 according to the New York Daily News

City of New York settles law suit with NYPD officer

Aneta Kwiatkowski filed the law suit against the city, alleging that Sgt. John Dorst sexually harassed her by forcibly kissing her and repeatedly demanding sex, telling her “it’s going to be the best one minute of your life.”

Naturally, Kwiatkowski herself is now under investigation by the same department, which so often happens in cases like this. Anyone who doubts it? Here are three words: Sgt. Christine Keers.

Keers, a former Riverside Police Department officer, sued the city of Riverside in the mid-1990s alleging sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The “retaliation” according to her law suit took place when criminal charges were filed against her and she was arrested by the same individuals in the department that she had filed grievances against even though the Riverside County District Attorney's office had admonished the department not to take action until its instruction.

The city of Riverside litigated Keers' law suit for a while, then settled it for a large sum of money. As is the case of racism, sexism existing in the city's departments, costs the tax payers. Those "inside jokes" and "harmless" banter exacts different costs. It damages the working relationships between men of color and women and other officers within an agency. It damages sometimes beyond repair, relationships between the law enforcement agencies and many of the communities they serve. And it takes a wallop to the taxpayers' wallets when racism and sexism that exist inside law enforcement agencies are litigated in court.

Several months ago, the city of Riverside decided to pay out the $1.65 million jury's verdict in the racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by Officer Roger Sutton. In part, that was because Sutton's attorney tried the case on paper, while the city's outside attorney tried its case entirely on often contradictory verbal testimony and when that didn't work, he just picked up mud and threw it, to see where it would stick. After the first week, the jury was probably onto what he and his team were doing. After all, the panel of 10 women and two men, most of whom were White were actually much smarter than most of their critics here and other places thought. Those who called them "idiots" base their knowledge on what was in the rumor mill than what took place in a courtroom.

Someone once said that perhaps female officers should receive two department-issued tasers. One to be used in the field and one for the workplace. That is probably too drastic a measure and tasers are not without considerable controversy, but it did raise the issue of how it's often the female officers who are expected to be the ones that handle themselves in situations where male officers behave badly as if in many cases, these same male officers are no more than adolescent boys who are incapable of behaving professionally in a workplace where women are present. And while looking at the exhibits of sexist and sexual cartoons, drawings and other items that accompanied Keers' complaint, it is clear that it appears that some of the men working around her were no more mature than if they were still teenagers. However, it's not simply immaturity that drives this behavior, it's done to send a message to these women that they may be police officers, but they will never be as good as their male counterparts and by being police officers, they are encroaching, even trespassing in what is still a male domain. And it is true that there is often a threatening undertone to all the behaviors involved with sexual harassment. That is often why when women complain about sexual discrimination and harassment, they are retaliated against. More attempts by those inside the agency to exert control over their trespassing into the male domain of law enforcement. But one cynical attorney representing another female officer had one word for retaliation: Damages.

That was certainly true in the Sutton case which involved racism, rather than sexism.

It is important for all law enforcement agencies to not only have a sexual discrimination and harassment policy in place, but to make sure that it is effectively implemented and without fear of retaliaton.

The National Center for Women in Policing has information at its Web site on what to do if you are a law enforcement officer who is sexually discriminated and/or harassed in the workplace.

Recognizing sexual harassment

What to do about it

It also discusses forms of retaliation that those who complain about it may face from supervisors or other officers.


Shunning/ostracizing - no one will talk to her; or she is prevented from receiving information important to the performance of her job or important to her personal safety.

Stalking/harassing incidents - obscene telephone calls, telephone calls where the caller says nothing, hang-up calls at all hours of the day and night, threatening or harassing letters or notes, damage to her automobile, articles left on her desk or in her work area that are intended to intimidate or harass.

Becoming the subject of rumors of sexual activity or other demeaning information.

Being held to a higher standard of performance - her evaluation reports become more critical and she is held to a different standard than others.

Harassing internal affairs complaints are filed against her by members of the organization or by citizens who have been enlisted to help the harasser.

Denial of training opportunities.

Denial of transfer to specialty jobs.

Denial of promotion.

Failure to provide back-up in emergency situations. This is the ultimate form of retaliation.

When it becomes apparent that she will not receive backup in a timely manner, the woman often leaves the organization because she is in fear for her life.

If you read Keers' original law suit, you would learn that she faced nearly all the behaviors on this list and then some. Similar behaviors were also reported by former officer, Rene Rodriguez and Sutton when they took complaints about racism to their supervisors. Rodriguez finally stopped coming to work in part because he began to fear for his life, according to a complaint he sent to the state's Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

Keers also expressed fear in her law suit. At some point, she received numerous hang up phone calls and messages by unknown individuals on her answering machine which were threatening and nature and referred to her as a "bitch".

In New York City, both sides of a law suit against the city and its police department, claimed victory after a jury reached its verdict in a civil trial conducted in U.S. District Court, according to the International Herald Tribune. The trial stemmed from a law suit filed in relation to demonstrations conducted in 1999 protesting against the NYPD shooting of Amadou Diallo.

Jury reaches verdict in NYPD law suit case


The verdict left the city claiming victory.

The city's corporation counsel, Michael A. Cardoza, told The Associated Press the city was vindicated against claims that for more than two years there were "winks and nods" as police carried out an unwritten policy to lock up all arrested protesters.

He said the jury had flatly told the plaintiffs they were wrong.

"That's big news," Cardoza said. "The plaintiffs prevailed in part, no question about it, but on the huge overwhelming part of the case the plaintiffs lost."

Jonathan C. Moore, a lawyer for the demonstrators, said the trial was limited to liability so a second trial would have to be conducted to determine damages, unless settlements were reached on behalf of some 30 people who claim to have been improperly arrested during that period.

Moore said he was disappointed that the jury did not conclude that the city violated the rights of those who were arrested between 1999 and 2001.

"It's unfortunate that a lot of plaintiffs will go uncompensated," he said.

The jury did find that the city violated constitutional rights during a period of time in 2001 when it introduced a written policy stating that people arrested at demonstrations were required to be locked up rather than issued citations to appear in court. Conflicting testimony was provided by former police employees as to whether or not that policy had been informally introduced during the massive demonstrations against the Diallo shooting two years earlier.


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