Officer sues police department for gender discrimination

Officer sues police department for gender discrimination
File photo

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

A city police officer is suing the Alexandria Police Department, claiming she suffered retaliation for a decade because she reported instances of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Officer Julie Goble brought the suit in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria last month. The 12-year veteran is seeking $300,000 in damages, reinstatement to her previous rank of detective and back pay dating to her demotion in April 2013.

According to court documents, Goble was treated differently from male officers almost immediately upon being hired in January 2002. At the police academy, she was “reprimanded for ‘obscene’ stretching,” although she stretched in the same way as her male counterparts.

Conditions grew worse in October 2002, when she was approved for solo patrol, under supervision from then-senior officer Ed Stephens. According to the lawsuit, Stephens “demanded sexual favors and threatened to give her an unfavorable rating or recommended she be terminated if she refused.”

Goble reported the harassment to her superiors and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Stephens was fired, but in the court documents Goble said the incident triggered retaliation from other officers who were friends with Stephens.

In 2009, Goble alleges she was passed over for promotion to detective, despite scoring higher on tests than other officers. She was promoted later that year, but only after a union representative sat in on her interview.

Ellen Renaud, Goble’s attorney, said during her time as a detective, she flourished, maintaining the best closure rate of any detective in the property crimes unit and simultaneously carrying the heaviest caseload.

“But she got no praise for that,” Renaud said. “There were no compliments.”

In 2012, then-Sgt. Monica Lisle became her supervisor, whom Goble accuses of being among those who were friends with Stephens. Goble claims in the lawsuit that she gave her record unwarranted scrutiny, at one point auditing all of her cases from a 15-month time frame — something that was not done for any other detective in the unit.

Her next supervisor, Sgt. Michael Kochis, discovered the audit upon replacing Lisle, now a lieutenant, in May 2012 and informed Goble, according to the documents filed with the lawsuit. And another supervisor, Lt. Jamie Bridgeman, allegedly barred her from interrogating men, despite Goble’s claim that she “had an excellent track record in obtaining confessions from both male and female suspects.”

Goble, at Kochis’ suggestion, reported the incidents to the city human rights office and the department of human resources.

According to Goble’s lawsuit, her complaint triggered another round of retaliation. Less than two months after meeting with city investigators, Kochis was ordered to give Goble an “unsatisfactory” rating, a decision he is quoted as confirming in the court documents.

Goble said she continued to be rated poorly until she was eventually demoted back to patrol officer in April 2013. Her lawsuit accused the department of opening a “barrage of internal queries and internal investigations … intended to investigate alleged misconduct by an employee; Det. Goble had committed no misconduct.”

Police department spokeswoman Crystal Nosal declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing legal proceedings and the fact that the suit involves a personnel matter. City spokesman Craig Fifer likewise declined to comment.

A court date for the case has not yet been scheduled.

Renaud said her client simply wants to do what she loves: investigate and solve crimes.

“She loved her job, she loved being a police detective,” Renaud said. “If there had been any way to fix this without a lawsuit, that would have been her preference. But they just wouldn’t make any changes and did nothing to address the discrimination and retaliation that she faced.”