A former California Highway Patrol officer says his coworkers made his life miserable on the job because he's gay, and he's now suing the CHP for discrimination.
Jay Brome, who was a CHP officer from 1996 until 2015, when he took leave due to medical stress, told The Sacramento Bee the homophobic harassment began when he was in the police academy and continued throughout his career.
"There was bullying or name-calling - 'fag,' 'gay,''' Brome said. "I had an instructor that told me ... to take my skirt off and start acting like a man."
At one point at the academy, according to his lawsuit, a fellow cadet aimed a training gun at his head and said, "I know you're gay, tell me you're gay or I'll pull the trigger."
Once he became an officer, he had trouble getting his colleagues to provide backup at crime or accident scenes, putting him in dangerous and difficult situations. "I had four fatalities in Contra Costa County, and I was the only officer on scene. ... This is unheard of," he told the Bee. "I had to do the investigation, I had to worry about the body, I had to control the scene."
The stress Brome suffered was so great that he would often cry in his patrol car, and he even considered suicide. His doctor ordered him to go on medical leave in 2015. He now runs a used-clothing store in Vallejo, Calif.
He had one lawsuit dismissed by a California court in March, with the judge saying it was filed beyond the statute of limitations. He now has filed an appeal using a different attorney, Gay Grunfeld, who says the dismissal was in error and that Brome should be able to bring his case before a jury. She filed a 55-page brief in late November in the state's First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Four other former CHP officers have submitted documents in support of Brome's efforts. One of them, Ken Stanley, told the Bee that colleagues put up pictures depicting him as gay, and someone once left a bloody tampon in front of his door.
"It's your typical macho environment [where] to other less-educated individuals in the workforce there can be no greater insult according to them than portraying somebody as gay," added Stanley, who happens to be straight. "One would think that we would be well beyond that, but the culture just permeates." He also sued the CHP at one point, but the case was dismissed.
The CHP declined comment to the Bee regarding Brome's lawsuit, but a spokeswoman said the agency has an equal opportunity policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, along with numerous other characteristics.