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Three Officers Sue DEA For Harassment


May 1995

Three Madison, Wisconsin area police officers have filed a sexual harassment suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and five DEA training agents, charging that the agents used implied threats of violence and made sexual comments to them and other women at three training sessions (Naftali Bendavid, "DEA Hit By Harassment Charges," Legal Times, Apr. 24, 1995, p. 1; Jeff Richgels, "3 Madison Cops Sue DEA," The Capital Times, Apr. 6, 1995, p. 1).

The suit, filed April 3 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges the five agents harassed the plaintiffs and other women on a number of occasions during the three week-long training sessions. The suit alleges that during the sessions, one in Minnesota in 1991 and two in Wisconsin in 1994, the agents created a climate of violence and sexual violence caused the women to become fearful:

One of the plaintiffs, Madison police officer Denise Markham, a five-year veteran, said she slept with a loaded gun beside her bed and barred her bedroom door with a refrigerator during the week of training.

The plaintiffs want the officers to undergo sexual harassment training and are seeking unspecified damages. Madison Detective Marion Morgan and Madison Detective Mary Lou Ricksecker, both with the force for 14 years, are also listed as plaintiffs.

According to Madison Police Lieutenant Steve Sheets, six other officers who attended the seminars complained about the trainers' behavior. The lawsuit also alleges that the DEA agents destroyed course evaluations that were critical of their performance.

The five accused agents are from the Chicago field office and have led over 100 training sessions in the Midwest over the past six years. Named in the suit are: Francis White, associate special agent in charge; Saul "Buddy" Weinstein, assistant special agent in charge; Melvin Schabilion, a group supervisor; Norbert Kuksta, Chicago office training coordinator; and Michael Flanagan special agent. They are now on administrative leave, and four have been transferred out of the Chicago field office because, according to a statement from the DEA, "we believe they can no longer serve effectively in the Chicago Division."

The DEA cancelled one training session when they heard of the women's lawsuit, and is now investigating their claims. "DEA views the complainants as being credible police officers who have brought their concerns to our attention," said DEA Spokesperson James McGivney. "The DEA is embarrassed by these allegations."