Jewish cops in Philly sue department, alleging anti-Semitic harassment

Lawsuit by Stacey Gonzalez and Pavel Reznik says they were refused time off on Jewish holidays, accuses their boss and others of making racist slurs

A Philadelphia Police Department patch in Philadelphia, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A Philadelphia Police Department patch in Philadelphia, May 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Two Jewish police officers are suing the Philadelphia Police Department over what they say is systemic anti-Semitic harassment.

The incidents include a Nazi symbol scratched on a locker, drawing a Star of David and writing “Hebrew Hammer” on the door of a patrol car, and being shamed for taking off Yom Kippur, according to local US reports.

The officers who filed the federal civil rights lawsuit this week are Stacey Gonzalez, who has worked in the department for 21 years, and Pavel Reznik, with 12 years on the force. They allege that racist comments and anti-Semitic acts by supervisor Cpl. Karen Church and more than 10 officers in the Ninth District station created an unsafe working environment and violated their civil rights.

The officers claim they faced daily harassment, such as ethnic slurs and off-color jokes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, citing the lawsuit. The lawsuit includes photos of some of the incidents.

The president of the city’s police union said Gonzalez and Reznik never contacted or requested the assistance of the union, which he said should have been their first line of defense.

Gonzalez said in the lawsuit that Church once asked Gonzalez: “Why doesn’t the United States just take a missile and blow up Israel?”

Gonzalez said that when she reported the remark, she was punished by having to stay after her shift to clean, and that Church spoke to her in a demeaning way and shamed her for taking time off during Yom Kippur, according to WHYY public radio in Philadelphia. She said she also was penalized for trying to take off Rosh Hashanah, though her fellow officers were able to easily make arrangements for Christmas.

Reznik, a Russian immigrant, said he was harassed for being Jewish and being an immigrant.

He said it was common for fellow officers to talk about getting “Jewed out” when something was too expensive, and that they would speak with a fake Russian accent around him and tell him that he was about to get deported. He said the harassment began in the police academy. Reznik also said he was denied time off for the Jewish High Holidays.

There are about 25 Jewish police officers on the city police force of about 6,500, according to the Inquirer.

The lawsuit asks for punitive and compensatory damages.

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