Sexual harassment 

Detective’s lawsuit dismissed

A District Court judge last week tossed out the remaining allegations in a lawsuit filed by Missoula Police Department detective Chris Shermer, who says his employers discriminated against him after he reported being sexually assaulted by a higher-ranking female officer.

“Shermer’s claims of a hostile workplace and retaliation are not supported by evidence and his arguments are not supported by law,” District Judge Jeffrey H. Langton wrote in the April 29 decision.

Shermer is a 13-year MPD veteran who regularly makes headlines for nabbing predators who victimize children on the Internet. Last year, he sued the city and the police department, alleging that this time he was the one harmed. Shermer asserted in court filings that in April 2012, Lt. Sandy Kosena “ran her pinky finger between my buttocks. She then leaned in close to my back and whispered a sexual innuendo in my ear.”

Kosena denied the claim, saying she simply patted Shermer on the behind and the incident constituted, according to legal filings, “a continuation of camaraderie, the past jovial relationship between Mr. Shermer and herself.”

But Shermer maintained that if the roles had been reversed and a male officer committed the offense, Kosena would have faced a more stringent punishment. Kosena received a two-day suspension with pay and a formal reprimand banning promotion for one year.

Langton agreed with MPD and Kosena when finding that she was punished more harshly than male counterparts facing similar complaints. “Shermer’s repeated allegations that the City accepted and apparently approved of Kosena’s conduct are belied by the record which clearly shows that the City, through Chief (Mark) Muir, neither accepted nor approved of Kosena’s conduct, but acted promptly to investigate and administer discipline,” the judge wrote.

In October, Langton threw out assault and battery claims filed by Shermer against Kosena and the city, in addition to allegations of negligent infliction of emotional distress. The detective’s assertion that he was discriminated against and subjected to defamation remained unresolved until last week.

The defamation claim came from comments made by Capt. Chris Odlin, who admittedly told another MPD officer that Shermer’s lawsuit constituted a “bullshit complaint.” Shermer says comments like Odlin’s reflect barriers that discourage men from reporting sexual harassment. That’s among the reasons he pursued the lawsuit, which he deems successful despite the judge’s ruling.

“I think change has occurred,” Shermer says. “It was never about money. It was always about exposure.”

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