In Somerset County, a Maryland State Police officer corners Trooper Kate Flanagan in an office, grabs the back of her trousers and yanks up on her underwear, laughing and refusing to let go, she says.
At a barracks in Charles County, a male officer approaches Trooper Linda Lozier from behind, licks her neck, rubs his crotch against her and forces her face down onto a table, demanding sex, she says.
During a break outside an Eastern Shore field office, Trooper Susan Smith says, a state police supervisor tells her -- in front of the squad -- to perform oral sex on each of her co-workers.
These accounts -- disputed by the men involved -- are among a series of sexual harassment complaints detailed in department reports, court records and interviews with dozens of current and former state police officers. The officers say the problem is widespread, despite the agency's public pronouncements against harassment and discrimination.
Female troopers say complaints are poorly investigated. Discipline is rarely doled out. And those who blow the whistle are labeled "rats" and "snitches." They say they face almost certain retaliation -- the worst shifts, the loneliest assignments and calls to dangerous situations without backups.
"When I joined, I wanted to do something with my life," said Trooper Smith, a 28-year-old drug officer. "I wanted to look back on my life, be proud and be able to tell my kids. But they don't respect women. They took every bit of self-esteem I had, and they ripped it to shreds."
This year, three troopers -- two women and a man -- filed suits in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, claiming the police agency violated federal laws that shield workers from sexual harassment and retaliation. While the cases await trial, troopers are beginning to speak publicly about episodes they say have been kept secret for years.
Among them: persistent sexual come-ons by male supervisors, pornographic photographs and cartoons on the walls of state offices, and threats of violence against those who complain, according to court records and interviews.
The Sun interviewed three dozen current and former troopers and administrators, both male and female, including some of the first women to join the force and others who worked their way up the ranks. Most say they were either victims of harassment or witnessed harassment against colleagues. The harassment ranged from off-color jokes and crude remarks, to personal threats and advances bordering on sexual assault.
It doesn't happen everywhere, troopers say. Some women say they spent years on the job without being harassed or witnessing harassment until they were assigned to work in a particular barracks or with a certain supervisor or colleague. When it did happen, the response from ranking state police officers remained the same -- the complaints were largely ignored, they say.
Here are how some recent sexual harassment claims were handled, according to records and interviews:
* Of nine harassment complaints investigated by internal affairs officers since 1989, four were referred for disciplinary action to state police trial boards, agency records show. In the two cases that have been heard, the sexual harassment complaints were dismissed.
* Several women who filed the complaints say they suffered retaliation -- bad work evaluations, transfers, threatening phone calls and rumors about their personal lives.
* Even though women represent 8 percent of the force, state police supervisors acknowledge that they never have chosen a female trooper to be a member of a trial board hearing a sexual harassment case.
"It's a very hostile environment for women," says Dr. Stephen Curran, who resigned last year after providing psychological services to the agency for nearly a decade. "I was ringing a loud bell that there were problems. Personally, I had enough of it."
State Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver says he can't be held responsible for incidents that occurred before he took over the agency in 1992. A defendant in all three federal lawsuits, he declined to discuss specific cases, but said he treats sexual harassment claims seriously.
"I feel that for anyone on the job, everything should be fair and equitable," Colonel Tolliver says. "We're trying to treat females fairly and my tenure reflects that. I will take severe action against people who violate our regulations."
The agency's second highest-ranking officer, 32-year veteran Lt. Col. James Harvey, says women always have been welcomed by their male colleagues.
"I just know that the agency doesn't tolerate any type of harassment," he said, adding that he hasn't heard many complaints while speaking to female troopers. "I don't think it's possible. Not only do I visit these folks frequently, so does the superintendent."
When women do complain, he said, the agency aggressively pursues the claims. Asked to cite examples, Lieutenant Colonel Harvey declined to name one, saying he couldn't talk about internal state police cases. "These things are very difficult," he said. "The law prevents us from talking about it."
But female troopers say they have complained about offensive behavior, only to find that they were scorned for violating an unspoken code of silence. The troopers also say supervisors did not keep their complaints confidential, making them even more vulnerable to hostility and retribution.
The result: Female troopers say they feel degraded, lose confidence in the agency and sometimes suffer psychological problems. One officer said the stress became so oppressive that she nearly took her own life.
Another considered taking the life of her male supervisor. "I thought about it all the time," said former Trooper Joanne Leyh, 35, who says she was called degrading names by fellow troopers and faced other harassment. "I just lost it."
It has been 20 years since women first donned gun belts and badges and began patrolling Maryland as troopers. It was an awkward start. In the beginning, they were furnished with tiny derbies while their male counterparts sported wide-brimmed Stetsons. Supervisors wanted them to wear skirts and proposed calling them "trooperettes."
Some women encountered problems as soon as they joined the force.
In the mid-1980s, a state police academy supervisor took an early retirement after a female recruit claimed she had been asked for sexual favors in exchange for admission, according to newspaper accounts.
In 1986, a martial arts instructor at the academy was having sex with female recruits. His supervisors, who were aware of the liaisons, did nothing to stop them. Later, though, the instructor, a corporal, and several academy supervisors were transferred, according to newspaper accounts and former administrators.
Today, 119 female troopers belong to the 1,591-member force. A woman now heads the Maryland Troopers Association. Forty-five women have won supervisory ranks, overseeing squads of men.
"To say we don't have any problems would be absurd," said Sgt. Virginia Lewis, president of the association and one of the first women to join the force in 1974. "It's not an easy place for women. But we have training programs, and I think we're trying to handle it in a responsible manner."
Despite the training, an in-house videotape explaining harassment, and memos and bulletin board messages sent to barracks around Maryland, female and male troopers say serious problems persist. One of the biggest problems: the lack of punishment in harassment cases, they say.
At first, Trooper Kathy Webster, was reluctant to report her supervisor. But in 1990 -- a few years after she stopped working for Detective Sgt. David Keller -- a state prosecutor approached her, saying other female troopers were complaining about the sergeant.
"I had no idea other women had complained," she said. "I thought I was all alone in this. I said, 'I'm big enough to handle it.' I was very angry at myself for that."
She said she agreed to cooperate in the investigation.
By the time the prosecutor contacted her, Trooper Webster had been on the force seven years. She said she dedicated her life to the job, sacrificing her marriage, rearing her son as a single parent.
Her first tour of duty in Westminster went well, she said. Her second tour in Berlin was disastrous. Several male troopers there, including a supervisor, didn't believe women belonged on the police force, she said. They constantly referred to her by an anatomical epithet so offensive that it rarely is repeated in public.
"They'd say, 'If you can't take it here, how are you going to take it on the road?' " recalled Ms. Webster, 34, who has since left the state police. "They didn't understand it was demeaning, and I shouldn't have to take it from them. They were my colleagues."
She told the prosecutor that the real trouble began when she was assigned to the Salisbury barracks, where she worked for Sergeant Keller. She said he constantly radioed her back to the barracks while she was on patrol, suggesting that they get together after work.
"He was making advances. I said, 'Sergeant Keller, I mean no disrespect, sir. But I do not mix my job with my personal life,' " Ms. Webster said. "He took it badly. From that point on, my life was a living hell. I received every call in the barracks, no matter where it was."
One night, she said, Sergeant Keller sent her to a domestic call. She said she pulled up to a small riot, with scores of people in the streets, screaming, throwing rocks and bottles.
"I was surrounded by people, blocked in," she said. "I had to throw my car in reverse to get out of there. I could have been hurt because I wasn't expecting anything like that. I radioed to Keller. He didn't radio back."
After checking out the claims made by Trooper Webster and the other female troopers, the state prosecutor -- Assistant Attorney General Betty Sconion -- took the case before an all-male trial board of troopers. Sergeant Keller and Trooper Webster said the sexual harassment claims were dismissed.
Ms. Sconion -- who is now defending the agency against the federal lawsuits -- said the trial board upheld two charges. Asked about the discrepancy, she declined to release or discuss the board's report or hearing transcripts, even though the hearing was held in public. She said the report and transcript are confidential.
Sergeant Keller said the case was "trumped up."
"I was charged with sexual harassment," he said, "but I was found not guilty." Sergeant Keller said some charges stemming from the case were upheld, but he can't recall details. "I know for a fact it was not sexual harassment."
Ms. Webster said she went on to become a "Trooper of the Year" in Somerset County in 1991 before being diagnosed with cancer. She said she was forced to retire on a disability pension two years ago and now works as a warrant officer for the Somerset County Sheriff's Office.
She said female troopers learned a troubling lesson from the case.
"We did it all for nothing," she said. "He was the first to be tried for sexual harassment in the department. That sent a signal that you can do whatever you want."
Part of the problem, according to troopers and administrators interviewed, is that women rarely are assigned to investigate claims of sexual harassment and that not once has a woman been placed on an internal trial board assigned to hear a harassment complaint.
At the state police, officers accused of misconduct have the right to bring their cases before three-member trial boards. The boards are run by a captain who selects two other officers. When they dismiss cases, administrators are not permitted to take disciplinary action.
Since 1989, internal affairs detectives have investigated nine sexual harassment claims. They dismissed four of the claims. Two cases went to trial boards, where the claims were dismissed, according to the targets of the complaints and those who complained. Two other cases are awaiting trial board hearings. One internal affairs probe is pending.
Trooper Kate Flanagan's case was one of those dismissed by a trial board. She filed a complaint against Robert A. Gunter, the Eastern Shore chapter president of the troopers association. She said her colleague gave her what's crudely called a "wedgie" in a police outpost in Princess Anne in December 1990.
According to Ms. Flanagan, her colleague grabbed her pants and her underwear and pulled up hard. "It hurt, and he wouldn't let go. I said, 'Let go!' " recalls Trooper Flanagan, 25. "He didn't let go. He was laughing."
Trooper Gunter denies the incident occurred. "The only thing I would like to say is I was found not guilty by a trial board," he said.
After Trooper Flanagan complained, she said she received a barrage of bad evaluations. She said her superiors told her to dress "more like a male." Rumors swirled that she was promiscuous and suffered from a split personality. She said she received threatening phone calls.
Ms. Flanagan sought help from the agency's fair practice office, which mediates employee complaints and disputes.
"Kate . . . was scared to death," said Doug DeLeaver, a former lieutenant who ran the office from 1989 until his retirement in 1992.
Trooper Flanagan's complaint, he says, was turned over to the agency's internal affairs unit, where detectives investigated and substantiated the claims. Despite the findings, the trial board dismissed the charges, he said. Trooper Flanagan later injured herself while working and left the force.
Mr. DeLeaver said the trial boards have sent a troubling message to female troopers.
"It's frustrating when people come to you for relief and they don't get it," he said. "It sends the signal that you can't win."
Dr. Curran, the psychologist, said that's precisely the signal some of his state police patients received. He said the agency handled harassment complaints poorly or not at all. Instead, he said, the troopers became targets for retribution, sending a message to other women on the force that it's too dangerous to complain.
"The organization needs greater sensitivity toward women," said Curran, who treated nearly 20 female troopers for harassment-related troubles. "In this atmosphere, you really can't complain. If you have a person who wants to file a complaint, what happens? Understand, you probably are not going to work for the agency anymore."
The outcome in another case sent a signal about punishment that won't be forgotten anytime soon, troopers said.
Trooper Michael Boutte was a rookie, assigned to the Waldorf barracks in Charles County. While on probation, he started to harass two female employees -- Trooper Linda Lozier, and communications officer Amy Corbin, agency records show.
Much of Trooper Boutte's behavior is too offensive to publish. What can be reported is this, according to a 1989 internal affairs report obtained by The Sun:
Trooper Lozier told investigators her troubles with Trooper Boutte began a year earlier. At first, he would whisper in her ear: "Give me a little bit." Later, he licked her on the neck. One day, he forced her face down onto an office table and rubbed his crotch against her.
Another day, he pulled down his zipper in the squad room and exposed himself, Trooper Lozier told investigators. "Don't you want it?" Trooper Boutte asked, according to the report.
Ms. Corbin told investigators that Trooper Boutte licked her on the neck and then said: "I think I'm in love." She also said he rubbed his crotch against her and asked her to perform a sex act. One day, she said, he placed his finger in his mouth and wiped it across her cheek.
After internal affairs investigators substantiated the incidents, state police supervisors decided to punish Trooper Boutte. As a probationary employee, they could have fired him. They also could have ordered a criminal investigation. But after discussing the case with prosecutors, "it was determined that there would be no criminal prosecution," the internal investigation said.
Instead, supervisors ordered Trooper Boutte to work an extra four days without pay.
"It wasn't bad. It gave me time to get my stats up, writing speeding tickets, responding to calls," he said, adding that he never received any counseling for his behavior.
Mr. Boutte is no longer with the state police department. He said he was fired in 1991 -- not for sexually harassing female employees, but for a series of unrelated incidents.
These days, he is unapologetic about his conduct with female colleagues.
"The way one woman dressed, you couldn't help say something. It was all done as a joke, and it just got out of hand," said Mr. Boutte, who denies exposing himself. He now lives in Atlanta, where he is searching for another police job.
"There were numerous people doing this," he said. "I don't think the punishment fit the crime. We were just killing time."
Ms. Corbin, 28, has since left the department. She could not be reached for comment and did not respond to a certified letter sent to her home. Trooper Lozier, 27, is still on the force. She said she would rather forget about Mr. Boutte.
"I don't feel comfortable talking about it," Trooper Lozier said.
Her silence is typical.
Many female troopers are afraid to speak publicly about sexual harassment problems. They say those who complain take a huge risk -- sacrificing their reputations, their assignments and ultimately their jobs.
For breaking the agency's code of silence, troopers are vilified and no longer trusted in the office or on the streets, they say.
Trooper Susan Smith always wanted to work the streets. When she joined the agency in 1986, she dreamed of making undercover buys and putting drug smugglers behind bars. Two years later, she started handling drug cases, and in 1990, she joined the Kent County drug task force on the Eastern Shore.
The squad's supervisor was Sgt. Michael Callanan, at the time a 21-year veteran of the force.
"He always had to say something about sex and the size of his penis," she recalled. "When he made comments about sex in general, that didn't bother me. When they became personal, that bothered me. When he specifically talked to me about sex, it became harassment."
In the summer of 1991, she says, Sergeant Callanan called her into an old farmhouse that was being used as an undercover hide-out. She said he was sitting in a chair, wearing loose shorts and no underwear. His legs were spread apart, she said. He was exposed.
"He played it like it was an accident," Trooper Smith said. "It wasn't an accident."
A year later, the drug task force moved to another secret location on the Eastern Shore. A group of male officers helped move the furniture that spring day in 1992. Trooper Smith was the only woman there.
At one point, all of the officers were standing outside the house. ++ Trooper Smith said she was mortified by what happened next. Sergeant Callanan, she said, asked the men to form a circle and then told her to perform oral sex on the officers, saying he wanted to see which one she could bring to climax first.
"Callanan started busting out laughing. So did one other guy," Trooper Smith said. "The rest of them were embarrassed. . . . It was a personal attack."
At first, she didn't complain.
"I felt demeaned," she said. "But at the time, my office was close to where I lived. I had my little girl then, and that was as close as I was ever going to get to home. I didn't want to mess that up. You see what happens to people who complain."
But she said Sergeant Callanan kept requesting oral sex and kept asking her to perform sex acts on his friends.
"I never let him think that was cute for him to say that," Trooper Smith said. "I'm married. I have children. The comments got worse and worse and worse."
Sergeant Callanan, who retired from the force this year, declined to comment.
"I wish I could comment," he said. "It's just so much baloney."
Trooper Smith said the remarks finally did stop, but that Sergeant Callanan started scrutinizing every move she made. She said he gave her poor work evaluations, criticizing her performance, her drug searches, her testimony in court.
Last year, Trooper Smith became pregnant with her second child. She was on the promotion list to become a corporal. When Sergeant Callanan refused to recommend her for the promotion, she said she decided to complain to a drug bureau supervisor, Maj. John Cook.
She said she told Major Cook that the sergeant was retaliating for her complaints about his behavior. She did not want to file a sexual harassment complaint, but said she asked Major Cook to reconsider her work evaluations and decide whether she deserved the promotion.
"I said, 'All I want is for you to look at these reports.' He said to leave the room," Trooper Smith said.
She said Major Cook called Sergeant Callanan into his office, and minutes later, summoned her back.
"He says, 'Sue, I'm going to uphold all of these write-ups,' " Trooper Smith recalled. "He said, 'I back my sergeants. As far as the harassment stuff goes, I'm sorry about that. But boys will be boys.' "
Major Cook declined to comment. "Talk to my lawyer," he said.
Still pregnant, Trooper Smith said the department transferred her to the state police drug bureau in Columbia -- a 72-mile, one-way drive from her home. When she returned from maternity leave late last year, she wasn't sent back to the streets. She was sent to a desk job and then assigned to a prescription drug fraud unit based in Columbia.
"I'm still 72 miles away from home," she said.
In June, Trooper Smith filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the agency retaliated against her because she complained about Sergeant Callanan -- denying her the promotion and then transferring her from Kent County to Columbia.
Attorneys for the state police deny the claims.
Trooper Smith's attorney says state police supervisors continue to retaliate against her client.
"Since the lawsuit hit, she's had nothing but trouble," Kathleen M. Cahill says. "She is scrutinized in a way that other officers are not. She's routinely written up, sometimes on a daily basis. It sends the signal that you should shut up and tolerate it, or get out."