06/12/2006

Female Ill. cop gets nearly $2 mil. for harassment

Chris Hack
The Chicago Sun-Times
Copyright 2006 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
All Rights Reserved 

By the time testimony in the three-week trial was over and the case was given to the jury, it was her word against a half-dozen police officers.

Suzanne Barth, Mokena's first female cop, claimed she was subjected to a ceaseless stream of degrading comments by her colleagues. Despite days of testimony from officers who called Barth a liar, the jury in the federal trial quickly sided with her -- declaring she was the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. They awarded her nearly $2 million.

Barth, a 30-year-old native of Chicago's West Lawn neighborhood who now lives in the southwest suburbs, joined the department in 1998. She was warned as early as her days at the police academy that Mokena had never had a female officer and that she was likely in store for a rough time.

"The longer I was there," she said last week, "the more I realized that was true."

After several years, with Barth's complaints about incidents of repeated sexual taunting, fellow cops allegedly refused to provide backup on calls; one sergeant allegedly said he couldn't back her up on a call because he was eating.

She quit in 2002, citing concerns for her own safety.

Not long afterward she filed the federal lawsuit naming the village and three veteran police sergeants.

The village's lawyers have pledged to fight the monetary verdict in a series of court filings that will stretch through the summer. After that, they may turn to appellate courts. 
 

Photo: Suzanne Barth: Safety concerns

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