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Ex-officers allege sex bias at LIC workplace

Two women have alleged that they were denied permanent positions with the NYPD’s School Safety Division because they refused to sleep with their supervisors, according to complaints filed in January with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Brooklyn residents Charisse West, 30, and Shameca James, 29, said in separate, identical complaints filed earlier this year that while working as provisional school safety officers they found the division headquarters at 28-11 Queens Plaza North in Long Island City to be a hostile work environment.

“This atmosphere consisted of unwanted sexual advances from male supervisors, lewd comments and suggestions of quid pro quo,” the complaints said.

West and James said they were appointed to their positions in December 2008 and were told that if they took a civil service examination, they could become permanent civil servants, the complaints said. Despite passing examinations, both West and James never received permanent positions and were terminated June 3, 2010, the complaints said.

The NYPD did not respond for comment as of press time Tuesday.

West and James alleged that other female provisional school safety officers received permanent positions for having sex with the supervisors at the Queens Plaza location, where West and James worked from April 2009 to June 2010, the complaints said. They alleged that the division’s deputy director, Gary Armstead, and school safety supervisors Gary Edwards and William Lance, as well as West and James’ female peers, would flaunt their sexual relationships and claim to have sex with the male supervisors in the department’s vehicles, the complaints said.

The complaints contain details of affairs Armstead, Edwards and Lance allegedly had while on department time. The two women contended Armstead was involved in a love triangle with two female supervisors, who would often fight in the office, and West and James say Armstead had one woman transferred when he “got tired” of her yet gave the other overtime and special tours, the complaints said.

In an interview with the New York Post, Armstead denied doing anything wrong.

“You’re telling me something I know nothing about. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Armstead told the Post.

West and James also alleged Edwards, Armstead’s subordinate, used department vehicles to chauffeur his girlfriend, who was in the same class as West and James, to and from work and gave her money and presents, the complaints said. In addition, West and James alleged Edwards’ girlfriend received overtime and special tours, and she and Edwards would often disappear for hours on department time, the complaints said. The complaints said the girlfriend would often brag about having sex with Edwards in vehicles owned by the department.

Lance allegedly engaged in similar conduct with another safety agent, whom he transferred to another school when he “grew tired” of her, the complaints said.

Eric Sanders, the attorney for the women, said West has been working to become a security guard since she was terminated, but James has not been able to find work.

Sanders said he believes more women will come forward about the alleged atmosphere at the school. He said the commission is currently investigating the claims.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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