A 23-year-old veteran cop from New Jersey claims she is being forced out of her department and faces being demoted as retaliation all because of an ‘old boys club’ between her male colleagues, which makes for a ‘hostile working environment.’
Captain Theresa Grillo who is married and openly gay, was the highest-ranking woman in the Lodi Police Department in Bergen County, northern New Jersey.
The captain was on track to eventually become the department chief having risen through the ranks to be third in command, but for the past ten months she has been suspended with pay for ‘repeatedly leaving her post’ while directing traffic at a construction site.
New Jersey police Captain Theresa Grillo could be demoted by three ranks after being charged with leaving her post at an off-duty roadside construction site
Grillo complained she was being tracked and discriminated against by her ‘old boys club’ coworkers. Grillo is seen second from right
Grillo claims the times she left her post was while she was off-duty and was simply to pick up lunch, coffee or to use the restroom.
Grillo claims that she has been unfairly picked on by ‘the old boys’ network’ who are seeking to have her fired from the department noting that male officers who have done similar have all been exonerated with no further action taken against them.
Grillo was charged with neglect of duty, insubordination, failure to obey an order and untruthfulness following an investigation by the Internal Affairs.
Her movements were studied after higher-ups fitted a GPS tracker to the patrol car she was driving. The exact times of her whereabouts were then logged and used as evidence in the case against her.
Grillo has been with the Lodi police department for 23 years and was third in line to be chief
Grillo’s actions are currently the subject of a non-criminal disciplinary hearing at Lodi council and it could see her demoted three ranks to patrol which would see her lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in future pay and pension benefits, in addition preventing her from ever becoming chief.
Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the Lodi Borough Council would decide the final penalty.
‘I believe it is all politically motivated,’ said Gina Mendola, Grillo’s attorney to NJ.com. ‘This male-dominated police force did not want my client to ever serve as deputy chief or chief. She’s a gay, married woman and she’s complained of a hostile work environment.’
The Lodi Police Department has not made any comment on the the pending disciplinary action.
Grillo has said she noticed things began to change following her promotion to the rank of captain in 2018. She noticed that she was being left out of the loop when it came to departmental decisions.
If Grillo is demoted, she could lose hundreds of thousands in pension benefits
After complaining to the then-deputy chief over what she perceived to be a hostile work environment, she later withdrew the complaint – but the chief then started an investigation of his own into Grillo, as a way to retaliate.
On one occasion in 2020, Grillo was ordered to switch from a traffic car to a patrol car which was equipped with more equipment including computers and safety features, but she refused fearing it had not been properly sanitized against covid.
After clashing with the chief, Grillo claims she is being discriminated against
The refusal to switch cars, she claims, saw fellow police officers start tracking her movements via GPS in another car she was using.
Grillo was supposed to be working off-duty at a construction site and Lodi Chief, Donald Scorzetti says Grillo was supposed to call for backup before leaving her posting. He maintains that everything in terms of tracking Grillo’s whereabouts was all above board and correct.
Yet, in her defense Grillo has detailed how six other officers who behaved similarly have not faced the same kind of scrutiny or faced any reprimand.
Scorzetti ultimately suspended her with pay in February 2021 over fears she might ‘retaliate’.
No matter the outcome, Grillo has said she now intends to sue the borough council.
‘They thought this was a way to shut her down and punish her for complaint,’ her lawyer, Mendola, said. ‘They didn’t expect us to fight back, but we are fighting back. To do this a 23-year veteran who has dedicated her life to this community is a travesty.’
Grillo has claimed in a disciplinary hearing that an ‘old boys network’ very much exists at the Lodi Police Department in Bergeny County, in northern New Jersey