NJ officer says her career was spent dodging fellow cops’ sex harassment
BRANCHBURG — A longtime female police officer has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her department, the township and several colleagues on the force.
Kate Proscia-Berger, 39, says that during her 17 years as an officer in Branchburg, she was groped, kissed against her will and propositioned repeatedly by several male co-workers, according to a lawsuit filed February in Superior Court in Somerset County.
The Phillipsburg resident began her career with the department around January 2002. She said soon after, the harassment began as "various and severe sexual comments and unwanted physical advances" created a hostile work environment.
Lt. Peter Crisafulli, Sgt. Manuel Camunas, Sgt. Corey Floyd and Sgt. Thomas Meola are named as defendants.
Proscia-Berger said Floyd once grabbed her crotch while they were in a patrol car, forcibly kissed her in a separate incident and repeatedly groped her. Proscia-Berger said the assaults were reported to fellow officers but no actions were taken.
According to the lawsuit, Proscia-Berger repeatedly rebuffed advances made by Crisafulli, who at the time the harassment began was a sergeant. Crisafulli was her supervisor at various points of her time with the department.
Proscia-Berger said Crisafulli once kissed her inside police headquarters, fondled her and tried to rub her back. She said he repeatedly told her that he was unhappy in his marriage and wanted to have sex with her even though he said he knew he was her supervisor.
Proscia-Berger said Meola, a superior officer, not only refused to report the assault and harassment she told him about involving the other officers, but then tried to discredit her among police administration.
In the court filing, she said Meola made up a story about her writing anonymous letters that criticized and slandered the chief. She also said that Meola made comments in the workplace that wrongly implied that they had been sexually active.
The suit also said that Camunas made repeated sexual comments to Proscia-Berger.
Proscia-Berger said amid all the harassment, she was passed over for promotions several times while other junior officers advanced within the department.
She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for economic loss, severe emotional distress, physical and emotional pain and suffering and mental anguish.
There have been a few other recent sexual harassment cases involving law enforcement in New Jersey.
Last year, the Ocean County Department of Corrections was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by five female corrections officers who said they have been victims of harassment, gender bias and workplace hostility by senior officers.
In November 2018, former Ocean City police Officer Vanessa Strunk filed a lawsuit in which she said she was routinely sexually harassed by male officers during her nine years on the force.
In January, NJ.com reported that Princeton reached a $4 million settlement with seven current and former police officers, both male and female, who had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a former police chief.
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