PROVIDENCE (CN) – Adding insult to injury, the highest-ranking female police officer in North Providence, Rhode Island, claims in a federal lawsuit that complaining about harassment has hurt her career and led someone to put a toy rat in a police cruiser.
As laid out in her Dec. 21 complaint, Lt. Diana Perez says “vulgar comments” are nothing new with the North Providence PD.
A 12-year veteran of the force, Perez says Acting Chief Christopher Pelagio belittled her for years about why she had been chosen to teach classes at the police academy.
Like the bail commissioner who returned her calls about prisoner arraignments, the academy director must have “wanted” her, Pelagio allegedly said.
Perez says Pelagio also used obscene language about female genitalia, and used the nicknamed a female dispatcher “Penguin” because of her weight.
When Perez had legitimate criticism about a woman being interviewed for a position in the department, she says Pelagio undermined her.
“Tell me the truth, you don’t want any competition, do you?” Pelagio allegedly said, referrig to the female candidate’s attractiveness.
Perez says this was on Feb. 8 and that she had to report the chief a month later when he “made an unsolicited, rude and abusive comment to Diana Perez concerning her physical appearance.”
Deputy Chief Charles Davey heard the remark, according to the complaint, and his reaction was to say: “Time out. I don’t want to be a witness.”
The complaint says Perez met with Mayor Charles Lombardi about her grievance on March 25 at his dry-cleaning business in a smaller adjacent town.
Lombardi allegedly pledged to take action but has not done anything.
Demonstrating that Pelagio learned about her written complaint, the complaint says he told the lieutenant he “can no longer trust her” and that she is not a part of his “inner circle.”
Perez says she also believes members of the department tried to intimidate her after the Lombardi meetng by placing a toy rat inside “an unmarked police cruiser that was parked in an area where all members of the North Providence Police Department, including Diana Perez, would see the toy.”
Evincing its attitude of indifference, according to the complaint, the department put Deputy Chief Davey in charge investigating Perez’s claims.
Perez says Pelagio told her that it was Davey who set up the toy rat, and that Davey made an “abusive reference” to her appearance just this past June.
In addition to the remarks, the complaint notes several promotions for which Perez was overlooked, despite an “unblemished departmental record, education and professional accomplishments.”
Perez says she has been out on leave because the workplace hostility has given her high blood pressure, stress and anxiety.
In addition to questioning the legitimacy of her injuries, according to the complaint, the defendants inexplicably have blocked her from accessing department email.
Perez is represented by Coventry-based attorney Edward Roy.
Roy has not returned a request for comment, nor has Mayor Lombardi or Chief Pelagio.