I-Team: New Jersey Police Sergeant Says She's Been Sidelined for Speaking Up - NBC New York
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I-Team: New Jersey Police Sergeant Says She's Been Sidelined for Speaking Up

"There’s nothing wrong with me. I am physically fit. I am mentally fit," the 20-year veteran says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sidelined New Jersey Police Sergeant Speaks Out, Fights Back

    A New Jersey police sergeant sidelined and strapped of her salary after she was found unfit for duty speaks out for the first time and is fighting back. The I-Team's Sarah Wallace reports. (Published Friday, July 13, 2018)

    What to Know

    • Christine Savage, a 20-year veteran of Neptune Police, says she was ordered out in March, first on paid leave, then unpaid leave

    • Savage says she's being punished for pursuing a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Neptune Township for a culture of sexism

    • Savage said her pension is frozen, and that she has been ordered to pay for expensive weekly therapy with no income

    A veteran New Jersey police sergeant says she has been stripped of her salary and her dignity for pursuing a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Neptune Township.

    Christine Savage, a 20–year veteran of the force, was first ordered out on paid leave in March, then unpaid leave after failing a fit for duty psychological evaluation.

    "There’s nothing wrong with me," the 44-year-old single mother told the I-Team. "I am physically fit. I am mentally fit."

    Savage is the only female supervisor in the Neptune Township Police Department. The only other female sergeant, Elena Gonzalez, resigned last year after publicly lambasting township officials for allowing what she called a culture of sexism and racism among male commanding police officers.

    "It’s a good ol’ boys club," said Gonzalez.

    The two female officers first filed parallel discrimination lawsuits in 2013, which the township settled a year later without admitting any wrongdoing. Both women were promoted to sergeant but claim the abuse continued, and they filed new lawsuits. The township has denied the allegations. 

    "Punishment for me, it quadrupled," said Savage, adding, "Anything I did was under the microscope."

    Gonzalez said, "I did not expect to be targeted this way. I just asked for something, for fair treatment. For equal access. She did the same thing."

    Gonzalez, an 11-year veteran, said she left the force to preserve her sanity. 

    "It was daily harassment," she said.

    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, File

    Savage said she decided to speak out after her professional mental state came under fire.

    "I’m really tired of people slapping my name and integrity around. It’s not OK," she said. 

    Savage claims the pressure was constant. She became alarmed when an unmarked car suspiciously cruised her block in Wall Township last February. She reported the incident.

    "It left me feeling like my safety was compromised. I actually was afraid for the first time," the sergeant said.

    Savage said shortly after that incident, she was written up for a minor disciplinary violation and subsequently sent for a psychological evaluation. Her attorney said the township has refused to turn over the full psychological report.

    "We want to be able to understand how the determination was reached, because Christine is fit for duty," said Don Burke Jr. "We plan to challenge the decision."

    A Neptune Township spokesman told the I-Team Savage is on "medical leave," but declined to provide any other details, saying it is a personnel matter. 

    Savage said her pension is frozen, and that she has been ordered to pay for expensive weekly therapy with no income.

    "At this point,”I can’t pay my bills anymore," she said. "They’re trying to force me out financially."

    Savage said the worst part was being escorted by a male supervisor into the women’s locker room after she was ordered out of headquarters.

    "I remember crying, because it’s humiliating," she said.

    "They have diminished my integrity. They have cut me down, stripped me down. They have demeaned me, degraded me." 

    Savage said she still loves the job and wants to go back to work. Gonzalez is now working for a private security firm and teaches at Rutgers University.

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