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Southampton police settle lawsuit with officer, agreement shows

Southampton Town Police Lt. Susan Ralph, at headquarters

Southampton Town Police Lt. Susan Ralph, at headquarters on April 12. Credit: John Roca

Southampton Town Police have reached a $120,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit that alleged a female police officer endured decades of gender discrimination in the East End’s largest police force, according to an agreement obtained by Newsday.

The suit, filed by Lt. Susan Ralph in 2015 when she was still a sergeant, described what she said was a pattern of gender discrimination, sexual overtures and retaliation, including being stripped of assignments, her police vehicle and her office.

“Litigation is always uncertain and with this settlement comes some closure and peace of mind for Lieutenant Ralph,” Matthew Weinick, the Melville-based attorney representing Ralph, said in a statement issued Sunday.

The department made no admission of wrongdoing as part of the March 23 settlement, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip and sought by Newsday through a Freedom of Information Law request.

In a joint statement issued by the town, the police department, Ralph and their respective legal representatives, the town also denied any wrongdoing, while Ralph maintained that her case had merit.

“It was in the best interests of the town and the police department to find a resolution which could end this prolonged litigation and we’re happy that we were able to do so,” Town Attorney James M. Burke said in the statement.

The legal settlement will be paid through the town’s insurance policy.

Southampton Patrolman’s Benevolent Association president Erik Breitwieser declined to comment, saying he had no knowledge of the settlement.

The agreement also provides for Ralph to receive a police vehicle and credit for 59 sick days and seven vacation days.

According to the lawsuit, female officers were told they couldn’t fire their weapons, were barred from preferred assignments and were not promoted beyond the rank of sergeant.

Ralph, in the lawsuit, also described instances when her superiors sent sexually explicit emails, asked about her personal relationships and made sexual advances toward her.

According to the suit, the discrimination started her first year on the force, though Ralph alleged that she also was retaliated against after giving testimony in 2012 for investigations by Suffolk County Police and the district attorney’s office into misconduct within her department.

In the months following Ralph’s testimony, she was stripped of duties, denied overtime, excluded from departmental meetings and removed from a DWI task force, according to the lawsuit.

Ralph’s claims were the second to come from a female officer within the department. Det. Sgt. Lisa Costa also filed a lawsuit against the department in 2014, alleging similar complaints. Costa settled with the department for $300,000, according to court documents released in January.

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