No Place for Harassment

October 18, 1994

The Maryland State Police has had women troopers for 20 years. You would think the boys would have gotten used to it. Some have, working with their female colleagues as fellow professionals. But some have not, playing adolescent games which, coming from adults who are police officers, are not just obnoxious and humiliating. They are against the law and psychologically damaging to those subjected to sexual harassment.

Maryland has no use for lawbreakers in state police uniforms, or for commanders who condone such behavior among their subordinates.

Sun reporters Scott Higham and Marcia Myers have unearthed a pattern of male state troopers tormenting female colleagues. While none has yet apparently constituted a sexual assault, there have been instances of unwanted advances, obscene behavior and lewd remarks by male troopers -- sometimes supervisors -- to female officers. This behavior has continued for years in an environment of permissiveness. Women have been discouraged from filing formal complaints, and have been subjected to retaliation if they did. Nine formal complaints have been referred to investigators. Not one has brought punishment. It's hard to believe they all have been unfounded.

In none of the cases has a woman been involved in investigating the complaint or as a member of the trial board. In a force that has 119 women -- 45 of them supervisors -- you'd think a woman's name would have come up on some commander's list. With that sort of record, it's hard to pin much hope on the remedial measures hastily announced by Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver after The Sun's articles appeared. Filing complaints directly to the office of a superintendent whose interest was not aroused by the nine formal complaints, three lawsuits in federal court and the resignation of a department psychologist who complained repeatedly about the harassment isn't a resounding change.

What would be a resounding change would be tangible evidence Colonel Tolliver won't tolerate sexual harassment. That means serious retraining for the force, thorough investigation of future complaints and harsh punishment for offenders.

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