Legal Drama Offers View of Mission Police Station

En Español

In a drama unfolding inside Room 504 of California’s Northern District Court, former patrol officer Lori Dutra’s lawyers are making their case against four female officers, who Dutra says  harassed and defamed her because of her sexuality.

Dutra, 33, alleges she suffered reverse discrimination at the Mission District Police Station at the hands of Sergeant Marta McDowell, retired Sergeant Kimberly Reynolds, Sergeant Lynn Reilly, and retired Sergeant Carri Lucas–all but the latter identify as lesbians.

Dutra has also filed suit against the City and County of San Francisco for allowing the discrimination to take place.

“This is a case about discrimination,”  Phyllis Andelin, Dutra’s lawyer said in her opening statement on Monday. “Dutra is the minority within the majority.”

By “majority,” Andelin referred to the assertion that many gay and lesbian officers ask to be assigned to the Mission Station because it serves the Castro area.

“There is a family-type feeling there,” said Dutra in testimony all day Tuesday. “The diversity in the district and the type of work that was to be done in the district attracted gay and lesbian officers.”

Dutra, who worked in the Mission for five years, said “non-lesbian women were treated differently,” and tended to leave the station.

Dutra, who dated both men and women, said she became the object of harassment by some of the female officers at the station after she began a committed relationship with a man in March of 2007.  She is now on maternity leave, but plans to return to work at the Police Academy.

“I was so excited about [the relationship], I wanted to show my friend Marta McDowell his picture,” testified Dutra. “I did, and she said ‘he looks like a wetback.’”

During a break in the opening arguments on Monday, Efrian Arellano, Dutra’s fiancé, said,  “They work in a Latino area and they’re profiling people.  They represent the city, and this is not a good sign.”

In the defense’s opening statement, Attorney Lisa Berkowitz denied that her clients made any such remarks.

Dutra,  Andelin argued,  befriended many of the lesbian officers during her time at Mission Station and was an active San Francisco Police Officers’ Pride Alliance member, yet maintained she never considered herself to be a lesbian—although her co-workers may have.

“She dated men, and she may have dated women. So what?”  Andelin said in an interview outside of the courtroom. In her opening argument she said, “Her sexual orientation has nothing to do with her job performance.”

Dutra received consistently positive performance evaluations by her superiors, including McDowell.  That changed in March of 2008.

That month,  McDowell and two other defendants wrote memos accusing her of being “too emotional” to perform her duties as a police officer.

The memos were sent up the chain of command in the SFPD, leading to Dutra’s removal from her assignment at the Mission Station. She was temporarily transferred, allegedly without an initial explanation, to the Behavioral Science Unit on Treasure Island.

“I considered these memos to be an invasion of my privacy,”  Dutra testified Tuesday. “It’s not anybody’s business in the chain of command—who I didn’t tell myself—to know who I’m sleeping with.”

The memos accused Dutra of addiction and gambling problems, as well as having an “addiction to drama” that the authors believed influenced her work at the station.

“They were simply documenting what they saw and sending it up the chain of command,” argued Berkowitz in her opening statement. “They thought the problem was serious enough that they had to act.”

Dutra said that the memos affected her pending promotion. The memos, she said,  bypassed SFPD’s standard disciplinary procedures, meant to reprimand officers before a problem becomes acute, because they passed up the chain of command without Dutra’s knowledge.

“The sergeants listed facts and objected behavior,” argued Berkowitz. “They did not reveal any info that Dutra didn’t share with them.”

“There is no evidence in this case that the memorandum has affected her ability to get promoted,” added Berkowitz.

Witness accounts and evidence will be presented for the duration of the trial, which is expected to continue for several weeks.

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Filed under: Front Page, Trouble

8 Comments

  1. KetzalkoatlEhekatl

    sounds like a good story

  2. CAr

    As a lesbian that is totally unbiased ( because I know many cops at mission station, including these 4 women, I know there is an immense amount of corruption within each station as well as the entire organization.

    Officers are under an immense amount of stress during their day to day assignments. Just look at officer, Carri Lucas who is a part of this trial and allegedly was involved in the death of a mentally Ill woman. Granted, the mentally Ill woman probably should not have been holding a knife, but Carri Lucas should not have barged in her house and surprised the woman while she was innocently watching television. No wonder Lucas is currently being sued by the family for 10 million dollars.
    To not make this comment any longer than it needs to be, consider the facts and that these four angry women that have been in the department for years have continuosly corrupted the system, as well ad your pocketbook. An interesting read is the 2009 city workers salaries that were just posted in the chronicle yesterday.

  3. LwM

    Well CAr clearly does not know these 4 women as He/She claims, because he/she has misidentified Sgt. Lucas, who had nothing to do with the mentally ill woman and the knife. If you are going to spew facts at least have them right.

  4. Maria O'Conner

    CAr bad news for your commet, Carrie Lucas was not the Officer involved in the shooting.

    You might want to re-check your facts

  5. Philip Wester

    I love it how she claims the memo is an invasion of her privacy instead of, you know, denying the things alleged in the memo, all of which are perfectly valid concerns to bring to one’s superiors about a colleague’s ability to do their job properly. Also, she began dating a man in March of 2007. The alleged harassment only began in March of 2008. What, it took them one year before their intolerance to heterosexuality/heterosexual acts got the best of them and they decided to start harassing her? Give me a break.

  6. Philip Wester

    BTW, why wait 2+ more years to sue? It’s past March of 2010 now.

  7. Maria O'Conner

    Philip Wester your facts are a little off

    Officer Dutra file her lawsuit two years ago and it has taken this long to get to court

  8. pat

    The best way to avoid discrimination and hostile workplaces is by doing research about potential bosses on sites like eBossWatch.

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