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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Misbehaving Trooper Doesn’t Have Bias Case

(CN) - Police officials did not discriminate in transferring an officer to a distant barracks for violating department policy by gluing pictures of male genitalia onto a colleague's calendar, a federal judge ruled.

After 15 years with the Pennsylvania State Police, trooper Steven Kagarise found himself in hot water in 2006 based on allegations from fellow trooper Stacey Gelvin that she had been the target of sexual misconduct.

Gelvin named Kagarise and two other officers, but said Kagarise's conduct did not threaten her because of their previous friendship.

The department's investigation uncovered sexually explicit messages Kagarise had sent Gelvin, and that Kagarise had glued pictures of male genitals to Gelvin's calendar. In 2004, Kagarise also took a check out of Gelvin's checkbook, photocopied it and made the copy out to himself, "Steven (A Good Lay) Kagarise," for $1,000. The memo of the check read, "For one hell of a good fuck."

Finding that Kagarise had violated policy and regulation, the department suspended him for 35 days, and transferred him from the McConnelsburg barracks in Fulton County, Pa., to a Chambersburg barracks over 20 miles away.

The department also allegedly told Kagarise to cease contact with the people at his previous station.

Kagarise later requested a transfer to Everett, a station about 50 miles away. The department granted that request but not before sending Kagarise to Bowmansville station, more than 100 miles away from Chambersburg.

In a subsequent lawsuit against Gelvin and 10 supervisors, Kagarise complained that he was the victim of gender discrimination and retaliation based on his past record of whistle-blowing in the department.

Kagarise said he previously objected to unwritten policies such as citation quota systems, and that, a year before his own disciplinary action from the Gelvin investigation, he reported his supervisor for sexual misconduct of a female officer. The report led to that supervisor's termination.

Highlighting Gelvin's own admission of her lack of intimidation by him, Kagarise claimed that she had once removed her shirt to show him bruises from a horse bite and that she once peed next to a road accident while he looked on.

After four years of proceedings, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel ended the case last week by granting the defendants summary judgment. Gelvin had been dismissed by stipulation in 2010.

Kagarise's complaints about quotas and misconduct were not protected speech, and did not plausibly lead to his transfers, according to the ruling.

"These statements related to his duties as a trooper, not matters concerning the community, politics, or any other social concern," Stengel wrote.

None of the statements were made within a year of the Gelvin investigation and some even date back to the 1990s, according to the ruling.

"The officer who determined the plaintiff's disciplinary sanction [also] testified in her deposition that she was unaware of the quota system complaints made by the plaintiff," Stengel wrote.

Kagarise also failed to show that he and Gelvin were "consenting adults" who engaged in the exact same acts in a "loose atmosphere," the court found.

"While this statement may be appropriate to defend a sexual harassment charge in the first instance, it does little to show that the plaintiff's gender was the motivating factor in his differential treatment after the fact," Stengel wrote.

The judge elsewhere stated: "Nowhere in the pleadings is there evidence to show that the plaintiff's differential treatment was based on his sex. In fact, the plaintiff himself even admits that he does not know why he was disciplined differently. Furthermore, the plaintiff points to no pattern of differential treatment based on gender that would substantiate his claim. There was also no showing that there was a deviation in procedure."

Alan Deffibaugh, another of the troopers Gelvin accused of harassing her, also saw his civil case disintegrate this fall.

Deffibaugh was fired in 2010 after admitting to the allegations, while Gelvin was suspended for two days for forwarding a female clerk an inappropriate email from a male officer.

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