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Holyoke police officer sues department
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
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HOLYOKE - Police Sgt. Tammy Walker, a 12-year police officer who is currently serving a 22-day suspension, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Springfield by the department's first black female officer, also alleges discrimination and harassment based on Walker's race, gender and sexual orientation.

The lawsuit cites state and federal statutes, including the state's so-called Whistleblower Protection Act. The lawsuit says Walker was retaliated against after she filed a report to the police chief in mid-2003 about an incident where several off-duty police officers refused to leave a city bar after closing time.

The lawsuit alleges that city officials and fellow officers violated Walker's First Amendment free speech right to criticize police policies and procedures.

Although no dollar amount was requested, the lawsuit seeks punitive, compensatory and multiple damages and legal fees.

Lawyer Tani E. Sapirstein, who represents Walker, announced the suit at a press conference yesterday in her Springfield law office shortly after filing the suit in court.

In 2002, Sapirstein successfully argued a whistleblower lawsuit against the city by former police Sgt. Gary A. Bennett. He was awarded $131,000 in damages and interest. Sapirstein also got $126,000 in legal fees and costs.

City Solicitor Karen T. Betournay declined comment yesterday, saying she will talk only after the city is formally served a copy of the lawsuit.

"We haven't see the suit yet, and we have no idea what it's about," said Betournay.

She said it was inappropriate that Sapirstein held a press conference before city officials were formally notified of the suit.

Police Chief Anthony R. Scott declined comment until advised by city lawyers.

But Mayor Michael J. Sullivan said he issued Walker a 17-day suspension earlier this month, on top of a five-day suspension from Scott, because she failed to follow orders and made unfounded accusations against superior officers.

"This isn't anything personal," Sullivan said. "This is about people doing what they're supposed to do."

Sapirstein said Walker "is very upset" that her working conditions have been ruined by the illegal activities.

"I think there is a lot of emotion," she said. "Because, after your family, your job is clearly one of the ways we define ourselves as people. (You) hope that, when you do your job ... you're not retaliated against."

She said Walker was disciplined for actions when other officers who did the same thing were not.

The lawsuit cites X-rated language Walker, a lesbian, alleges other officers used to mock her sexual preference, and racial comments she said other officers used to characterize her and Scott, who also is black.

Walker filed three separate complaints about harassment with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In 2000, the city agreed to promote her to sergeant as the result of one complaint.

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Weather or not her lawsuit is valid or not. Why would the city promote someone as a solution to a problem. What a shitty way to move up in the ranks nevermind the fact that she may not be Sgt material, she probably gets very little respect because of that, no way id take a promotion like that.

Remids me of the Holoke Lt that Sunderland almost got as a chief. Lucky for them she didnt I head she had to sue for her promtions as well.

I am not making light this current lawsuit, just commenting on the other mentioned about the promotion.
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