Case 004 - Police officer
Female, now 51, police, Alaska, USA.
Just three years after becoming a police officer, I was promoted to sergeant - the first (and so far only) woman to be promoted to rank in this department. Accepting that promotion was perhaps the worst mistake I've ever made.
The very first shift that I worked as a sergeant, one lieutenant began to belittle and correct me in front of the officers. For about a year, I tried to deal with the Lt. by myself, assuming that he was just inept with people and didn't know how to supervise. But it only got worse. For another year, I went to the captain - who did nothing. Finally, I went to the chief. He said that he already knew that the Lt. was "harassing" me because other co-workers had told him so. He said that he had had a talk with the Lt. that very morning - and the problem would stop.
I felt incredibly relieved and hopeful. I shouldn't have.
Over the next two years, I went to the chief eight times. Each time, the Lt. would stop talking to me for a while then the bullying would start up again, getting worse and worse until I went to the chief - again. Another Lt. joined in, then another, then one of the captains.
I finally went outside the department for help. I got an attorney, went through the personnel system... The chief retired rather than deal with the Lt. When the new chief was hired (from outside the department and outside the state), he quickly won my trust. In order to let him get on with the task of cleaning up all the former chief's other messes, I settled with the city. I should have sued them then. Too much of a team player, I guess.
It took him another three and a half years to break me down, but the new chief finally succeeded - with "kindness" and "friendship" - where the obvious bullying by the others had not. Naiveté is, indeed, the worst enemy. I believed. I *had* to believe that the new chief was my champion. That he was there to make things right.
Of course, he wasn't. With 20/20 hindsight, I know that he was hired very specifically to deal with me. Hindsight has finally let me see that the man is a sociopath - a very intelligent, experienced, professional sociopath. I never stood a chance.
In 1997, after eleven years with the department, I went through a stress breakdown. I never went back to work. I tried to get the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate my case and represent me. They told me to go sue the department on my own. No attorney would take my case because there was no money to be made in it. (In the USA no governmental agency - even on the local level - can be assessed for punitive damages; and, until very recently, there was a $300,000 cap on sexual harassment litigation.) I went through vocational rehabilitation; they told me I was very smart and could do almost anything - and sent me on my way. I'm still dealing with Workers' Compensation and the State Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) - still on my own.
The city's lawyer is fighting me tooth and nail over my Workers' Comp claim. PERS has sent me to two different psychiatrists, both of whom determined that I was "totally, permanently disabled". The first shrink said that my job had caused it. PERS didn't like that determination so they sent me to another shrink - who said that what had happened to me had had *no* appreciable effect on me! Never mind that he never read my documentation of what had happened...
I only stumbled onto Tim Field's web site a few months ago. It has made a tremendous difference to me, giving me hope and validation and information with which to fight onward. I've stood up for myself so well that PERS demanded a continuance because the State of Alaska "Law Department can't deal with so many witnesses" and so much documentation.
(With Tim's permission, I included a lot of the information from his web site in my evidence "packet" - almost 1400 pages total.)
So, I fight on. My husband is still supportive and encouraging - and as patient with me as he can possibly be. (Without him, I would long ago have ended up living on the street...) I have given up any hope of making any difference in my (former) department.
I've finally figured out that PERS is trying to stall long enough that we sink into poverty and I have to withdraw the money from my retirement account. If I did that, they would be through with me - forever! I would get no pension, much less any disability pension! Which just makes me want to fight them even harder!
Many, many thanks, Tim, for spreading the word.