NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The first woman to make the Virginia Beach Police Department’s SWAT Team is suing the department for millions of dollars.
Nicole Kosmas, 39, says the VBPD discriminated against her because she is a woman. Her 39-page complaint was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.
The complaint says Kosmas faced hostility and a discriminatory environment during her time as a trainee, while she was a member of the SWAT Team, and even after her removal from it. At times, the document says she was retaliated against by supervisors and colleagues on the team because she reported it when she was treated differently.
The lawsuit is against major players of the city, including the City of Virginia Beach. Police Chief Jim Cervera, Deputy Chief Tony Zucaro, as well as eight other members of the police department.
The complaint suggests supervisors and instructors did not want Kosmas on the SWAT Team. Instructors continued to try to force her out, criticizing her and treating her differently than male team members. She says they questioned whether a woman could do the job, even though the document claims “she performed as well as and often better than her male SWAT Team peers.”
Kosmas alleges instructors gave her bad evaluations on purpose, all of which were put in her file.
On multiple occasions throughout her time on the SWAT Team, until she removed in early 2013, Kosmas says she met with supervisors, including Chief Cervera to, “discuss the specifics of the on-going mistreatment and harassment.”
Kosmas says there was also inappropriate and sexually charged conduct on the team. Sexually explicit text messages with graphic images were sent to Kosmas and other members of the team to make her feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. And according to Kosmas, there were more than just text messages. There were also pranks involving rubber penises at SWAT functions, critical remarks toward her, rumors she was sleeping with leaders, and an overall mentality on the team that contributed to gender discrimination.
Virginia Beach City Attorney Chris Boynton spoke with WAVY.com about the case. Boynton said while the lawsuit has been filed, it has not yet been served to any of the defendants, as of Tuesday.
Boynton said the complaint contains new allegations, some of which have come out of the blue. Boynton said the city was aware Kosmas filed reports that she was treated differently because she was a woman. He said the police department was investigating those claims. However, allegations of the team having a “sexually charged environment” were unknown.
Boynton also acknowledged some of the allegations are “salacious” and have no place in a modern police department. The VBPD is currently conducting its own investigation of the new allegations.
Master Police Officer Kosmas is still employed by the Virginia Beach Police Department. WAVY News 10’s Liz Palka spoke to her attorney in Richmond, who filed the complaint. Harris Butler, III said the allegations are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
You can count on 10 On Your Side to keep you updated with the latest in this case.