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‘Pervasive sexual favoritism’ rampant at Redlands PD, suit alleges

A Redlands police detective with more than 20 years on the force and a former officer have sued the city, alleging “pervasive sexual favoritism” within the department that fosters a hostile work environment for women.

In a lawsuit filed April 29 in San Bernardino Superior Court, Leslie Martinez, a detective specializing in crimes against children who has been with department since March 2000, and former Officer Laurel Falconieri allege conduct at the agency is cultural and has been occurring for more than seven years.

“The Redlands Police Department was shifting from providing female officers with opportunities and success, to restricting their promotions and creating a pervasive environment of sexual favoritism and hostility to female officers,” the suit alleges. “The Redlands Police Department started to become an environment where female officers would receive promotions and opportunities if they had a superior officer ‘in their pocket,’ which was code for having a sexual relationship with a superior officer.”

Martinez and Falconieri both accuse Officer Eddie Herrera, who they claim has a history of complaints against him, of sexual harassment and falsely accusing them of misconduct.

Martinez claims she was forced to defend herself against a false arrest allegation by Herrera in 2017 after she reported him to her superiors. Herrera’s accusation that Falconieri gave a Ziploc baggie of drugs back to a woman during a domestic violence call, which Falconieri disputes, led to her termination and placement on the Brady List of officers with credibility issues.

Redlands Police Department spokesman Carl Baker declined to comment on the lawsuit due to the ongoing litigation. He said Herrera has been employed with the city of Redlands since March 29, 2001.

  • An exterior view of the Redlands Police Department in Redlands on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
  • An exterior view of the Redlands Police Department in Redlands on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
  • An information sign shows the direction to the Redlands Police Department in Redlands on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Martinez’s claims

Martinez alleges in the lawsuit that Herrera was her “main harasser” and that his conduct “was supported and assisted by various superior officers who ratified and condoned the harassment.” She filed a complaint against him on July 6, 2016, alleging sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, but claims he was never disciplined or held accountable for what he did.

During the investigation into Martinez’s complaint, she and other witnesses, the lawsuit claims, were subjected to harassment by other officers that included having their department-issued vehicles and other property vandalized and receiving threatening phone calls at home. Herrera, she claims, continues to harass her.

Martinez’s complaint alleges Herrera accused her of falsely arresting someone in 2017. “The allegations were untrue and Martinez was forced to defend herself and her police work in an attempt to clear her name after Officer Herrera’s false allegations,” according to the lawsuit.

Falconieri’s claims

Falconieri claims she was sexually harassed by several officers and commanders while employed at the department. One corporal told her all she needed to do to keep her husband happy was to cook for him and have sex with him. He also told Falconieri that Black people were responsible for all the crime in San Bernardino and Redlands, according to the lawsuit.

Another corporal gave a “Nazi salute” to another officer and made a comment about the size of a teenage cadet’s breasts. One officer, during a coffee run to Starbucks with Falconieri, asked her if she was “extremely horny” and said he liked having sex with pregnant women because “they could never get enough.” Falconieri was pregnant at the time.

While assigned to the detective bureau, Falconieri claims she was subjected to continual sexual harassment by the lieutenant in charge, who always told her how good she looked and repeatedly asked her out for drinks in person or via text, even though she was married. He also invited her to his beach house in Carlsbad, and, on one occasion, texted her a photo of himself shirtless, according to the lawsuit.

Herrera, according to the lawsuit, would joke about the breast milk Falconieri would pump in private during work hours and store in the department refrigerator in water bottles to later feed her newborn baby. Herrera asked her if it was her “boobie milk” and joked with other officers that they should use it for coffee creamer. He also told Falconieri she needed to use her looks to get information from criminals on the streets.

“Herrera told (Falconieri) there was another female officer who worked at the department and she had large breasts and she was doing well,” according to the lawsuit.

On another occasion, Falconieri was wearing running shorts and grabbing equipment out of the trunk of her car when Herrera drove up, whistling at her and warning her to be careful what she wore, telling her he didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.

Fraternization prohibited

Of the department’s 84 sworn officers, six are female; 28 of the department’s 39 civilian employees are female, Baker said.

Under police department policy, sexual relationships are prohibited between supervisors and their subordinates. “Public trust, safety and city morale require that employees avoid the appearance of a conflict between their professional responsibilities and any involvement that they may have in a romantic or sexual relationship with other City employees,” according to the department policy.

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