Former Fresno police sergeant files a civil complaint alleging sexual harassment and wrongful termination, citing incidents of inappropriate behavior and harassment within the department.
An Established Officer
According to the lawsuit filed on July 6, Szatmari joined the Fresno Police Department in 2003 and was promoted to sergeant of the K-9 and mounted patrol unit in September 2020.
Harassment Within the Department
The lawsuit, prepared by West Coast Employment Lawyers, highlights incidents of harassment and inappropriate behavior within the department.
The Harassment Started After Her Promotion
Shortly after her promotion, a group text thread circulated a picture of a Thanksgiving turkey with a phallic overlay and a suggestive message.
They Told Her They Operated Under ‘Vegas Rules’
The complaint also alleges that Szatmari was informed by Lieutenant Jordan Beckford that the K-9 unit operated under “Vegas rules,” implying a code of secrecy. Lieutenant Bill Dooley allegedly echoed this sentiment.
Texts and Pictures Added to the Toxicity
The text thread included other sophomoric images and discussions, contributing to Szatmari’s discomfort.
In December 2020, the all-male unit discussed a blow-up doll for a Christmas party, despite Szatmari’s request for them to stop.
Including Her Sister in Their Vile Comments
On another occasion, an officer commented inappropriately about Szatmari’s sister.
Trying to Address the Behavior
In February 2021, Szatmari addressed the inappropriate behavior and demanded it cease during a meeting with officers in her unit.
A Secret Group Chat Within the Force
The lawsuit further reveals that seven officers on a K-9-related trip engaged in a separate text group filled with homophobic and racist content, including explicit images and insinuations about Szatmari.
False Rumors Started Circulating
Following a work trip, false rumors were circulated about her conduct, resulting in her removal from duty and placement on leave.
The Complaint Led to Her Termination
The lawsuit alleges that officers filed a baseless complaint to Internal Affairs, leading to administrative leave and her eventual termination in December 2022.
The Attacks Started to Take a Toll on Her
The experiences described in the lawsuit took a toll on Szatmari’s mental well-being, causing panic attacks and anxiety.
She Was Excluded From the Department
She expressed her disappointment, feeling excluded from the department’s inner circle due to maintaining her integrity.
She’s Seeking Compensation Now
Szatmari’s lawsuit seeks compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, attorney fees, and additional damages.
The Case Will Soon Be Heard
The case is scheduled for a case management hearing on October 31. The Fresno Police Department declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
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