A New York City police captain and Iraq war veteran who says "nothing is done fairly in the NYPD" is suing the police department.
Captain Sharon Balli, a 16-year NYPD veteran, has earned a bronze star as an army combat veteran, but she says she never imagined she'd be in a battle against her own department. It's the second time in recent weeks that a high-ranking female NYPD officer has filed court papers against the largest police force in the country over gender discrimination.
"I've served 23 years in the military, four combat tours, worked in close male proximate...never had any issues. And this department, this is how they treat you," Balli said.
The 42-year-old oversees special teams in Manhattan South Narcotics. Balli says her career started to go sideways when a junior male captain joined the unit.
"It was just constant sexual comments all the time about the blouse, your hair, the way you look. Constantly, non-stop. He even went so far to ask me about my husband's and myself's sex life," Bali said.
She says the professional respect for women executive staff was non-exisistent.
In May, Balli filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint, documenting allegations of the sexual harassment, and she says retaliation began immediately afterward.
"The whole system is rigged. This is something that's supposed to be confidential. Immediately they found out about the EEO," Balli said. She says her schedule was changed, her bicycle tires were damaged and she was concerned her food and computer were being tampered with.
The notice of the lawsuit stated, "The hostile work environment had become so toxic hat [Balli] was forced to essentially work out of her Department issued vehicle in order to avoid her office."
Balli says she placed a camera inside her office to protect herself against further retaliation, but the captain that she filed an EEO against was in her office, found the camera and reported it to Internal Affairs. She recalled IA walking into her office, telling her to step out without any explanation and "searched my whole office."
The discrimination claim comes less than two weeks after another lawsuit was filed by retired three-star chief Lori Pollock who said "the police department culture is still an old boys' network."
"We're not part of the boys' club. You have to be part of the boys' club. You have to speak their language and they take care of each other. We don't have ranks high up there where we need to be," said Balli.
Balli's attorney, John Scola, says that this is a pattern with the NYPD. "The main pattern within the NYPD is anyone that speaks out against discrimination is punished and retaliated against. It's viewed as dissent. You're viewed as a rat. You're viewed as someone that can't be trusted," he said.
Balli's notice of claim seeks $5 million in damages.
The NYPD spokesperson says the lawsuit will be reviewed when it's served, adding that the contribution of women across the department cannot be overestimated.