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Police officer demoted after claims of sexual harassment

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Wednesday December 12, 2001

A Berkeley police officer has filed a complaint against the city claiming that a supervising officer subjected her to a pattern of sexual harassment and on-the-job discrimination based on her gender. 

In closed session Tuesday, the city upheld the claim, demoted the officer and agreed to pay the victim $25,000, according to a source who asked for anonymity. 

The claim alleges that eight-year veteran Sgt. Tom Jeremiason subjected Officer Jennifer Hall to emotional distress, sexual harassment and employment discrimination based on her gender during a three-month period beginning in January. 

The claim also alleges that police department officials were aware of Jeremiason’s behavior but failed to take appropriate action to prevent it. According to the claim, Jeremiason was in fact transferred from the division for unspecified reasons on March 29. 

Police spokesperson Lt. Cynthia Harris said earlier on Tuesday that the department could not comment on the case because of the pending claim, but that both Jeremiason and Hall are still on active duty.  

Deputy City Attorney Sarah Reynoso, handling the case for the city, did not return calls to the Daily Planet regarding the complaint. 

Hall’s attorney James Chanin, who filed the claim against the city for unspecified damages above $10,000 last May, declined to discuss the case during the day on Tuesday, before it went to the council closed session.  

Hall, who completed her department probationary period in December, 1999, alleges that on at least nine different occasions, Jeremiason made sexually explicit comments either directly to her or in her presence. The comments were mostly made while one or both of them were on duty.  

According to the complaint, Jeremiason called Hall at home using a work-related pretense while he was on duty, but then admitted “I called you so you could talk dirty to me.” On another occasion, the claim alleges, Jeremiason told Hall, who had laryngitis at the time, that her voice was “sexy” and asked for a tape recording of her repeating the phrases “oh baby” and “oh Tom.”  

Jeremiason also discussed women he was dating and other female police officers with Hall despite her objections. On one occasion Jeremiason allegedly told Hall that he had assigned a female police officer, who he thought was “frigid,” to a particularly dangerous duty hoping that “someone would slug her in the face and (she) would quit the department.” 

Hall alleges that Jeremiason began to behave in a hostile and unprofessional manner towards her beginning sometime in February. According to the claim, Jeremiason asked Hall to “set him up” with a friend and specified he didn’t mean with “a lesbian.” 

On March 11, both Hall and Jeremiason separately responded to a hit and run incident in west Berkeley. According to the claim, Hall and Jeremiason disagreed about whether one of the vehicles involved in the incident should be impounded. Somehow Jeremiason got the impression that Hall had “gone over his head” and consulted a lieutenant, which she hadn’t. 

Jeremiason became upset and pulled her aside by grabbing her arm in front of witnesses. He then began yelling and accused her of insubordination and commented that she had been ignoring him. 

After that incident, Hall complained to senior officers about Jeremiason ’s behavior and was told that an Internal Affairs investigation had been initiated.  

According to Hall’s claim, Jeremiason retaliated by trying to embarrass her in front of other officers during an official briefing that was attended by Hall’s patrol team. 

Hall claims it was suggested on at least three occasions by high ranking officers that she transfer to another duty. She refused claiming that she had done nothing wrong and that Jeremiason should be transferred. 

On March 29 Capt. William Pittman announced that Jeremiason had been transferred, but did not specify for what reasons.