Seven Princeton police officers have filed a lawsuit against the town of Princeton, the Princeton Police Department, and former police chief David Dudeck, claiming that from 2008 until he went on a forced leave of absence this spring, Dudeck allegedly engaged in a continuing pattern of gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination and sexual harassment that was abusive and created a hostile work environment.
Previously, the police union had agreed that it would drop all claims against Dudeck if he retired, which he did.
Officers Sharon Papp, Carol Raymond, Steven Riccitello, Daniel Chitren, Christopher Donnelly, Michael Bender, and Christopher Quaste are the plaintiffs in the joint lawsuit filed in Mercer County Superior Court on Aug. 28. The officers want a trial by jury and are seeking compensation from the town for emotional distress, pain and suffering, lost promotions, employment, wages, benefits, punitive damages and attorney fees.
Papp and Raymond are lesbians. According to the lawsuit, Dudeck allegedly called them and other women “dykes” and repeatedly used the phrase “put his/their finger in the dyke” when referring to their work for the police department.
Dudeck allegedly referred to an officer who was working on an investigation of a sexual assault involving two gay Princeton University students as his “best d _ _ _-sucking detective and said he was the “perfect officer” to investigate a gay-related sex crime.
According to the lawsuit, Dudeck repeatedly grabbed his genital area, giving it a shake while either saying “right here” or “I’m no p_ _ _y.” The suit also claims that Dudeck said “they all think I’m a jerk off'” while he made a masturbating hand motion in front of officers.
According to the court documents filed by the lawyer for the police officers, Dudeck allegedly:
– Asked Chitren repeatedly about the size of his penis and referred to the penis of an African-American officer in the presence of other officers. He also allegedly asked another officer about the size of his penis while the officer was standing at a urinal.
– Called police officers slang words for a women’s genitals in the presence of other officers, male and female. Officers allege that he also referred to a male officer as having grown a female sexual organ.
– Squealed like a pig, imitating the movie “Deliverance”, in which a male was raped and told to squeal like a pig by his attackers. The officers allege that Dudeck asked them whether they “would take it that way.”
– Told male officers he wanted to “check their temperature” and then allegedly held up a single finger, moving it up and down as if he intended to take their rectal temperature.
– Forced Papp to watch him Google the word “dyke” and then allegedly told her the search showed pictures of two women.
– Referred to Quaste as “tea-bagging” other men. He allegedly also called Quaste “Q” for question, meaning there was a question about his sexual orientation. According to the suit, Dudeck repeatedly compared Quaste’s yearly camping trip with the movie “Brokeback Mountain”, referring to the movie involving gay men involved in a relationship on a camping trip, even though Quaste is a heterosexual, married male.
– Returned to the police department after drinking, and allegedly told an officer “I should #$%* you in the a_ _.” On another occasion he allegedly told officers another officer “had them bent over the table and was shoving it up their a_ _.”
– Asked male officers about their sex lives and allegedly asked if their wives or girlfriends ever stuck their fingers in their anuses. He allegedly claimed one officer used a sex toy, and called the officer “Doh.”
– Mocked an officer who lost a testicle due to cancer, asking him ” How’s it hanging?” while at the urinal.
– Talked about anal sex, sex toys, and his sex life with his wife, and asked officers if they masturbate. Allegedly he told an officer who had testicular cancer that at least the officer could still masturbate.
– Told an officer who had been out sick that he sounded like the officer had something in his throat when he had talked to him on the phone. Then allegedly Dudeck made a gesture for fellatio.
– Claimed an officer who was out with tonsillitis was out of work because he had contracted oral herpes.
– Asked an officer if he ever used the phrase “deer velvet” for a woman’s genitals.
– Referred to Papp as “the claw”, allegedly mocking her for the scar on her right hand and wrist from a third-degree burn she suffered as a child.
– Mimicked a sexual activity with his finger when referring to Papp’s activities on vacation in Rhode Island.
– Stated in front of several officers that one in ten people are gay and that he knew there were gay officers in the department who were “not out of the closet”. He allegedly also asked two male officers if they were gay.
– Told an officer to shave the mustache he had grown for cancer awareness month because it made him look gay.
– Told an officer he was going to screw the officer over because the officer had arrested four Hun School students for possession of marijuana. Dudeck is the football coach at the Hun School.
– Threatened officers that if they ever spoke out against him, they would be committing career suicide. The officers claim Dudeck made false disciplinary and performance allegations in retaliation for their complaints about his conduct.
The lawsuit claims town officials aided and abetted Dudeck by negligently hiring him as chief despite allegedly knowing about his discriminatory conduct, that officials failed to discipline him for that conduct, colluded with Dudeck to hide his discriminatory conduct, and allegedly improperly monitored the officers’ conduct after he went on forced leave by using other officers as informants.
The suit comes four months after the Princeton Council and Dudeck entered into a separation agreement that would allow him to retire at the end of this month in exchange for all the charges against him being dropped. In early August Dudeck filed his paperwork with the state to retire. He officially retired on Sept. 1, a month earlier than originally planned.
As part of the Dudeck settlement, the police union agreed to withdraw all allegations against Dudeck, and the Mercer County Prosecutor agreed not investigate charges previously made by the union. Under the agreement, both Dudeck and the town are barred form any future litigation regarding his employment, and Dudeck is forbidden from discussing the agreement. At the time the settlement was made, some officials praised the agreement, saying it would protect everyone from future legal liability and that the police department could begin a new chapter.
“The agreement provides everyone involved with the ability to move on,” Mayor Liz Lempert said at the time the governing body approved the agreement.
When the original complaint about Dudeck was filed in the spring by the police union, there were never any individual complainants named, only witnesses to incidents in a written complaint filed by the police union. Officers now claim that individual officers are not bound by the union agreement with the town regarding the Dudeck settlement.