VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Three highly ranking members of the Virginia Beach SWAT team are suing the city for $5 million for wrongful disciplinary action.
They filed their lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court on Nov. 25. It deals with a discrimination lawsuit a female SWAT member filed in Feb. 2014 against the city, its police chief, deputy chief and several other officers, including the officers who are now suing the city themselves.
Nicole Kosmas, a member of the Virginia Beach Police Department’s SWAT team, said supervisors and instructors treated her differently than male counterparts. She said she was also the victim of harassment because of her gender on multiple occasions.
Police Chief James Cervera provided the plaintiffs, Christopher Willis, Thomas Shattuck, and Jeffery Wilkerson, with a notice of disciplinary action. They were each suspended for between 20 and 40 hours. The three officers deny the claim. They said they believe people are making them into scapegoats.
“Three very fine officers’ careers were destroyed so that a defense can be concocted in a civil case against the city,” said attorney Mike Imprevento.
The lawsuit by Willis, Shattuck and Wilkerson states “violations of their rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” Willis is a 21-year veteran of the department with 14 years in SWAT. Shattuck has been in the department for 16 years and joined SWAT in 2012. Wilkerson has been in the department for 21 years and served as the SWAT lieutenant.
Willis and Wilkerson have since transferred out of SWAT. 10 On Your Side is told Kosmas was on leave but is headed back to the team.
“I’m going to look for all the communications between the chief and the city regarding the reasons why they were disciplined,” Imprevento said. “It’s fair game, and I’m going to go after it.”
The officers said they did not discriminate against Officer Kosmas. They said she couldn’t do the job and cite numerous examples.
“We are still initially assessing the law suit,” said Virginia Beach Deputy City Attorney Chris Boynton. “Though it hasn’t been served, it appears to be without factual or legal merit. While we can’t comment on specific personnel matters, we will vigorously defend the chief when he has to impose discipline when necessary for the good of the department.”