Civil rights suit charges Suffolk police racial discrimination

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Two black Suffolk police officers claim department brass failed to properly investigate a supervisor's racially derogatory email that led to their demotion after they complained, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Lisa Krolikiewicz, a Suffolk County resident, and Kathleen Waithe, of Queens, allege in court papers that Suffolk County, former Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, former Deputy Commissioner Roger Shannon and Robert Donohue, a detective lieutenant, did not fully "address allegations" of discrimination and retaliation based on race. Janet Gerhauser, a department civilian employee who was their supervisor, was also named as a defendant.

The suit also claims they heard Gerhauser make numerous racially charged comments while at work.

Suffolk police officials would not comment on the lawsuit, and a county spokeswoman did not respond.

Krolikiewicz, who joined the department in 2002, and Waithe, who started in 2003, were working in the department's Recruitment and Community Outreach Section -- which is tasked with recruiting women and minorities -- when problems began in 2011, court papers say.

Five months after complaining about Gerhauser's email and comments, they were demoted, according to the suit. Krolikiewicz and Waithe are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

"The county and its supervisors . . . were deliberately indifferent," stated the lawsuit, filed July 10 in Central Islip.

According to the suit, Gerhauser sent an email, which both women received, comparing "minorities to dogs." The suit alleges Gerhauser said she needed a "mental health day" when the department added a Spanish language section to its entrance exam.

When Krolikiewicz complained about the email to Donohue, he said he'd handle it and advised her to "go to the mall and walk it off," according to the lawsuit.

Shannon, who retired from the force in 2011 after a 37-year career, said while he found the email "offensive," the lawsuit is "a stretch."

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Shannon said the officers "were insulted in some minor way and as far as the police department was concerned, the situation was properly resolved with disciplining the individual that insulted them."

The other defendants and their attorneys could not be reached. It's not known what discipline Gerhauser received.

Dormer and Shannon met with the women April 8 and an Internal Affairs investigation began. Three months later, the suit says, the officers were told their complaints were "unfounded."

The officers also filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints with the department.

David H. Rosenberg, a Carle Place-based attorney representing the officers, said the "case is about standing up for an employee's right to work in a discrimination-free environment."

@Newsday

With Mark Harrington

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