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Women in Policing

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Sexual Harassment at
SRJC Police Academy

March 17, 2001

Mr. Robert Agrella, President
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa, CA

Dear Mr. Robert Agrella,

We're writing to express our concerns that months of unchecked sexual harassment at the SRJC Police Academy this past year resulted in the loss of five promising female cadets from the evening academy.

We are especially concerned that, according to a number of cadets, this harassment went on for months and that the director of the evening academy, Deputy Peter Hardy, repeatedly ignored or minimized cadets' reports of the harassment. In fact, according to cadets, Director Hardy protected the perpetrator at the expense of the cadets, and allowed the perpetrator to graduate in December. The perpetrator is now eligible to become a police officer in California. The careers of the female cadets have been lost to the community.

We're also writing to suggest that this situation presents a unique opportunity for you to help correct what has been an intractable county wide problem of our police departments' inability to retain female officers.

As we understand it, the situation at the academy last year is that there was a male cadet in the year 2000 evening police academy who was sexually harassing females in the class for months until the women left around midterm. The sexual harassment at times escalated to criminal sexual offenses and criminal threats. A number of the cadets, female and male, reported and confirmed the ongoing harassment to the evening Academy Director Peter Hardy. Instead of acting on the evidence presented to him, Director Hardy allowed the harassment to continue even as female cadets were leaving the class one after the other.

In May 2000, just before midterm of the one year evening academy, there were a total of 25 cadets in the class. There were 8 females (2 of whom were minority race females) and there were 17 males. The primary victim of the harassment was a minority race female.

At graduation time in December, 2000, there were a total of 18 graduating students, only 3 of whom were females and 15 of whom were males. 5 of the females had been lost to the class including the 2 minority females. One of the 2 males who left the program was also a victim of sexual harassment by the perpetrator cadet. This male victim had also reported the harassment to Hardy, and then later tried to report to Hardy again when the perpetrator cadet retaliated against him for reporting in the first place. According to this cadet, when he tried to tell Hardy about the retaliation, Hardy said he didn't want to hear it. The other male who was lost to the class was one of the three minority males.

The perpetrator cadet was graduated with Deputy Hardy's full knowledge of his offenses, as confirmed, witnessed, and reported to him by a number of cadets. From the statements made to us by a number of the cadets, Director Hardy was well within his rights and obligation to have terminated the perpetrator cadet and saved the other cadets' careers.

There were other officers who were at the academy in training positions who can fill you in on the details. They are Deputy Don Fisher, Deputy Tom Spencer, and Officer Todd Hart.

This is sickening, Mr. Agrella, particularly in light of the terrible record of our local police departments in the hiring and retention of female officers over the past few years. Here are just some of the indicators of the problem:

  • The national average of female sworn officers on police forces is 14%. The percentage of sworn females among the sum of police in Sonoma County is less than half the national average.
  • In the last four years, at least ten female sworn officers have left the Santa Rosa Police Department, five of whom stated to us that they left because of the hostile work environment in that department against females. Santa Rosa Police Department has never had a female in any position of rank, not even a female sargent. As of August 4, 2000, Santa Rosa Police Department had only 13 sworn female officers (7%) out of a total of 173 sworn officers.
  • In the same time period, Sonoma County Sheriff's Department has had at least 10 female deputies and corrections officers file sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits. As of August, 2000, the Sheriff's Department had only 17 sworn female officers (7%) out of a total of 218 sworn officers.
  • Sebastopol Police Department has never had a female sworn officer until this year,
  • Sonoma State University Police two years ago paid off a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a female officer who was sexually assaulted by one superior, and ordered by another to falsify a domestic violence report so that the report would favor the male suspect.

In addition to the gross injustice to the women in these situations, what's equally disturbing is the intolerable cost to our communities. Two decades of research on women police is conclusive. Women officers exceed male officers on many of precisely the skills that are so sorely needed to correct chronic problems plaguing our police. The research shows that women officers have much lower rates of excessive use of force, they better handle rape and domestic violence, and they excel at de-escalating volatile situations.

The opportunity for you that we referred to earlier in the letter is that this problem has now come to a head at the police academy where you have unique authority to intervene. Until now, correction of sex discrimination problems in our law enforcement agencies has depended solely on police officials. For the most part, our local police officials have proven unable to make the internal changes necessary to end male dominance in their forces.

The police academy, however, although run by police and Sheriff's deputies, is a department of Santa Rosa Junior College, and as such it falls into your jurisdiction. In fact, under Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights Act, Santa Rosa Junior College is obligated to ensure that there is no sexual harassment at the college. We're asking first, that you abide by that obligation and investigate Deputy Hardy's response to the sexual harassment complaints. And if, as the cadets claim, Deputy Hardy allowed the harassment to continue, and allowed the perpetrator to graduate, we ask that you immediately remove Hardy from his job as head of the evening academy.

Second, we ask you to take all necessary measures to correct the sex discrimination that has been rife at the SRJC Police academy for years.


Marie De Santis, Co-chair
Tanya Brannan, Co-chair
Kim Mercier, Co-chair

Ms. Kathleen Doyle, SRJC Board of Trustees
Sonoma County communities
Kenneth O'Brien, Executive Director,
California Police Officer Standards and Training
Penny Harrington, Director, National Center for Women and Policing Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs' Association

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Women's Justice Center,

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