JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A police lieutenant suspended for 10 days earlier this year after a post on a social-media site has filed a federal lawsuit against the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office alleging sexual discrimination.
Lt. Trudy Callahan's lawsuit claims selective enforcement of disciplinary policy, a hostile work environment and retaliation for filing complaints against superior officers.
Callahan was accused of making racist posts on Instagram about black people, using profanity and calling African-Americans the "N" word. She resigned from her position at the Fraternal Order of Police in February and was suspended in April.
Callahan’s lawsuit alleges that she was disciplined for behavior that male officers had done without receiving any discipline, including:
- Arguing with a chief
- Being late to a meeting
- Late completion of assignment
- Didn’t file a noteworthy report on a business robbery
- Her squad didn’t write enough citations for curfew violators
- Missing a lieutenants’ meeting while on bereavement leave
At a community meeting in 2013, Callahan told citizens to lock their cars, saying it was an open invitation to criminals, whom she compared to “roaches.” She was written up by a chief who heard a male officer call criminals “thugs, punks and knuckleheads,” but there was no discipline. That same chief also called a criminal a “thug and punk.”
Callahan filed Internal Affairs complaints against several chiefs and the lawsuit says that’s when the retaliation started. She was transferred from midnight shift to day shift, against her wishes, because she takes care of her ailing mother during the day. This prompted her to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
After that complaint was filed, she claims to have received more harassment from several other chiefs.
Randy Reep, a local defense attorney not affiliated with the case, said the burden of proof lands on the plaintiff and she has to show that she was reprimanded when someone else was not.
"It's much more subtle now than it used to be, so that has made it much more difficult for the plaintiff's side," Reep said.
Callahan was originally disciplined after JSO’s Integrity Unit investigated an anonymous complaint about an inappropriate comment she made last May. Investigators put a GPS tracker on her car without her knowledge, a violation of her privacy and unprecedented, the lawsuit said.
"Keep in mind, even if there was different reprimand base on two different officers, it's the plaintiff's job to show the reason she got reprimanded was because she was a woman, and the reason the other person wasn't reprimanded was because they were a man. The proof has to be on the plaintiff, which is difficult to do," Reep said.
The Sheriff's Office said it will have no comment on the lawsuit.