The Greenburgh Police Department in Westchester County is under investigation after a bisexual police officer there filed a lawsuit alleging ongoing sexual harassment from within the force.
According to News 12, two members of the Greenburgh Police Department have already resigned as part of an independent probe commissioned by the town of Greenburgh in response to a 42-page complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Greenburgh Police Officer Kristin Stein said she faced a spate of sexual harassment that boiled over during roll call in 2019 when Greenburgh Police Officer Jeff Cerone allegedly “pushed his genital area into her buttocks, toppling over her and ramming himself into her.”
According to body camera footage of the incident obtained by Gay City News, officers are seen laughing while another officer slaps his knee in response to the incident by Cerone. In another video, officers confirmed that Stein was tossed during the incident, and one officer says, “I think he has a crush on her.”
“He tries to assert his dominance to show that he has the penis in the relationship,” another officer said, according to the body camera footage.
According to the complaint, an internal investigation into Stein’s sexual assault allegations led to officer Cerone being “lightly reprimanded,” which included a reduction in his vacation time and his removal from the midnight shift. The suit preceded the resignations reported by News 12 and it is not clear which officers have left the force.
“The Town Board and I will never tolerate sexual harassment against members of the LGBTQ community or anyone,” Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said in a written statement to Gay City News. “We want our employees to feel comfortable reporting incidents and also want our employees to know that we will take every complaint seriously.” Feiner said an independent law firm is leading the investigation.
Stein, who said she comes from a family of police officers and claims to be the first out queer woman to serve as a police officer in Greenburgh’s history, said she was targeted because of her sexual orientation and gender. She further accuses the Greenburgh Police Department of condoning a work environment rife with sexual harassment and assault.
“It’s a boys’ club and everyone just falls in line, do as we say, and you won’t get hurt,” she said. “I’m the only one that stood up, and I’m the one that’s hurt.”
Stein explained that she feared to publicly express her relationship with her girlfriend because she was afraid she would be sexualized.
“I truly believe that once the men in the department found out that there was a possibility that I was interested in men, and that I was in a relationship with a female, that everything became a fantasy,” Stein said. “Everything became almost like pornographic with me.”
The complaint also claims that another officer in the department sent her gifts, asked her out to dinner, and repeatedly texted her after working hours. When the officer discovered that Stein identifies as bisexual, he was allegedly upset.
When Stein first joined the department in 2017, another female police officer advised her not “sleep around” and to be tight-lipped about any alleged sexual harassment from officers, the lawsuit states.
“The discrimination started because she’s a woman,” Stein’s lawyer, Denise Cossu of Murtagh, Cossu, Venditti & Castro-Blanco, LLP, told Gay City News. “It intensified because she identifies as being bisexual.”
Cossu also fired back at the Greenburgh Police Department after police officials told News 12 they disagreed with the characterization of the video.
“Nothing’s been mischaracterized. Watch the video, listen to Kristin,” Cossu said. “Pretending that an assault didn’t occur is not going to make it not have occurred. It occurred; they all saw it.”
Stein has since taken a leave for her mental health and is worried that she will have difficulty finding future work as a police officer, saying she has “been blacklisted” from police departments.
“I’ve never had one bad reprimand,” she said. “I’ve only gotten awards and good community letters. And within five years, my career is ruined because I didn’t want to fall in line with the other guys.”
While the Greenburgh Police Department did not respond to Gay City News’ requests for comment, the town is acknowledging the severity of the allegations as well as the reality that some could be skeptical of the police’s response to the lawsuit.
“If we have an independent review, people will feel better about the way we’re handling this,” Feiner said, adding that he does not want to see the woman barred from her dream job. “I want her to feel good about the town. I know the family.”
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