Photo: Outside of Central Station, Officers Brendan Mannix (left) Jen Viceral (right) hand out the sweets to kids in the area. Photo by Susie Neilson
An openly gay San Francisco police officer is suing the City of San Francisco for alleged harassment over his sexual orientation. He was repeatedly called a “queen,” among other disparaging names by higher-ranking officers, he alleges in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed Thursday further contends that the San Francisco Police Department’s completely failed to address his complaints.
SFPD Officer Brendan Mannix charges that two sergeants — Patrick Tobin and Lawrence McDevitt — allegedly waged a year-long campaign of harassment, discrimination and retaliation in which they continually used sexist and homophobic slurs. When Mannix confronted them, the officers retaliated, he alleges.
The ranking officers tasked with investigating Mannix’s grievances did nothing about his complaints, the lawsuit alleges.
“In a testament to the ubiquity of the culture, the SFPD was aware of the harassment but, for over a year, failed to take any reasonable steps to prevent it from continuing,” the complaint says.
This is not the first time the SFPD has confronted charges of homophobia. In late 2014 and March 2016, the city released two batches of racist and homophobic text messages that officers had exchanged. Central Station is also the station where another officer alleged that he was the victim of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The San Francisco Police Department declined to answer questions about whether Sergeants Tobin and McDevitt are being disciplined as a result of the lawsuit’s allegations.
“Anything about the civil suit, you have to talk to the City Attorney’s office,” said David Stevenson, SFPD’s director of communications.
“The San Francisco Police Department is committed to diversity, tolerance and respect for the public and all of our members,” Stevenson added. “We take all allegations of discrimination and officer misconduct seriously and will thoroughly investigate all complaints.”
John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office, said his office has not been served the lawsuit, “so we’re not going to comment on it.”
“The City of San Francisco, including the Police Department, has been a leader on LGBT rights for decades and remains committed to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all,” he added.
Mannix, according to the lawsuit, has been a San Francisco police officer since May 2015. He served his probationary period at the Richmond Station, and in fall of 2016 was transferred to Central Station, which covers much of downtown, North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. This is where the trouble allegedly began.
When Mannix said or did something “stereotypically gay,” which the lawsuit does not define, sergeants Tobin and McDevitt would allegedly make remarks similar to “ugh, you gays!” or “God, you gays!” On numerous occasions, the lawsuit alleges, the sergeants suggested that Mannix was involved in a relationship with the only other gay officer at the station.
Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that the two sergeants would frequently say that Mannix’s behavior was “too dramatic.”
“Don’t be such a queen,” Tobin allegedly said when during one instance when Mannix said he was cold.
Tobin, Mannix alleges in the lawsuit, also made transphobic remarks in his presence, reminiscing about how “back in the day” police would “round up” all the “trannies.”
When Mannix confronted the two sergeants, asking them to stop the harassment and telling them he believed it was motivated by his sexual orientation, Tobin and McDevitt broke out into laughter and mocked him, according to the lawsuit.
McDevitt allegedly concluded by leaning close into Mannix’s face and saying: “If you think I’m a bully, file a fucking complaint.”
A retaliation campaign followed, according to the lawsuit. In April 2017, Mannix requested backup multiple times after witnessing a robbery and a potentially armed suspect.
Minimal backup from Central Station arrived late, and Mannix had to apprehend the suspect on his own. No sargeant showed up from Central Station, despite SFPD policy, according to the lawsuit.
When Mannix returned to the station following the robbery incident, he allegedly found Tobin relaxing at his desk. “Mannix approached the sargeant to register his concerns over the lack of back-up,” the lawsuit says. “Sergeant Tobin replied by saying, ‘Don’t be such a queen!’”
Finally, Mannix filed a complaint a few months later with another Sergeant, Maria Ciriaco. “However, when she drafted the complaint, she omitted nearly all of the incidents described above,” the lawsuit charges. “Sergeant Ciriaco insisted to Mr. Mannix that all of his other allegations should not or could not be included.”
The complaint was closed in December 2017, “Because Sergeant Ciriaco had omitted many of the incidents related to her by Mr. Mannix …”
In March 2018, Mannix spoke up about another officer who experienced racist and islamophobic harassment from other officers at the station, and was given unfavorable assignments as a result. He told his superior officers, but nothing happened.
Lt. Brian Hoo and Ciriaco told Mannix they were aware of his complaints of workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment, the lawsuit alleges. “Neither Sergeant Ciraco nor Lieutenant Hoo directly addressed Mr. Mannix’s concerns.”