BOISE — A former Boise police officer — who was fired from the department last week — has filed a tort claim against the city, claiming her supervisors sexually harassed her, and that they also made illegal changes to her training records.
Sierrna Berg, 26, is the third former Boise Police Department employee to claim the department changed her training records, and hers is the second claim filed this month against the department.
Berg’s attorney, Joe Filicetti, filed the claim Wednesday. According to the tort claim, the department’s leadership terminated Berg on Nov. 18.
“At this point I think there’s potentially criminal behavior going on in the Boise Police Department and somebody else should be looking into it,” he told the Idaho Press on Wednesday.
A tort claim is not a lawsuit, but it often precedes a lawsuit. It is a notice from one party to another that the filing party believes a wrong has been committed. Mike Journee, city of Boise spokesman , did not return a call from the Idaho Press Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.
Berg was a new member of the Boise Police Department, and was still working with a field training officer. However, according to the tort claim and Filicetti, members of the department's training staff criticized her in ways he didn’t criticize male police officers.
They would tell her to lower her voice’s pitch on the radio so she didn't sound like a girl, even though it was naturally higher because she was a woman, Filicetti said. They also told her to “toughen up” and stop referring to people as “sir” and “ma’am,” and to treat people harsher, according to Filicetti.
Filicetti also said the sergeant told Berg she was not allowed to wear friendship bracelets she made, because they didn’t conform to police culture — even though other officers wore similar bracelets and were not criticized for it. In addition to that, some of her supervisors asked her uncomfortable questions about her marriage, according to Filicetti.
At that time, she was under the command of an officer identified in the tort claim as "Sgt. Stace." Filcetti said the sergeant led the training division, but Filicetti said he didn't know Stace's first name.
“Berg had previously made a complaint to Internal Affairs Captain Brian Lee about Sgt. Stace’s sexual harassment of her,” according to the tort claim. “They had her removed her from Sgt. Stace after she begged them to move her.”
Filicetti said Berg made the complaint in September, but said the department did nothing until November. On Nov. 13, according to the claim, Berg saw her field training officer, Officer Cameron Kolos, talking with Stace, the sergeant in charge of the training division. She heard her name mentioned five times during that conversation, according to the tort claim.
“Officer Kolos was overheard saying, ‘Berg has no business in law enforcement, I am going to do whatever it takes to wash her out,’” according to the claim. “During that day of training, she obtained perfect scores.”
'A TERMINABLE OFFENSE'
Wednesday’s tort claim wasn’t the first time Berg’s name has appeared in such a claim against the department. Earlier this month, two other former Boise Police Department employees, Joshua Keyser, 33, and Jeff Triplett, 34, filed a tort claim in connection with an incident they say occurred in March. The two men and Berg were in the Boise Police Department Advanced Academy together. Triplett and Keyser say they saw the class’s fitness instructor put another trainee in a choke hold, “attempting to take him to the ground,” according to that claim, which was filed Nov. 4.
That incident is rehashed in Berg’s tort claim. She was the class president at the time, according to both claims, and Keyser asked her, along with Triplett, to report the incident to Nate Davis, the academy’s instructor. According to Berg’s tort claim, Davis said he was trying “to avoid contacting internal affairs about the choke hold incident.”
It was after the academy, while in the field training officer program, that Berg began to notice irregularities in her training records, according to the claim.
“Sierrna Berg found that many of her training records that were entered at the time of her training were getting modified by someone after the fact, which is both illegal and unethical,” according to Berg’s claim. “Nothing was done by Boise Police Internal Affairs Unit until after the November 4 tort claim filed by Keyser and Triplett.”
Berg reviewed body camera footage of the incidents described in those training records, according to the claim.
“The body camera footage show that the initial grading was false, and the modifications were even further from the truth,” according to the claim.
Triplett and Keyser both noticed changes made to their training records as well, they alleged in their tort claims. Filicetti said Berg has solid proof of the modifications made to her records.
“She has copies of her records,” Filicetti said Wednesday. “She’s gone through and checked everything against the video.”
Filicetti said it is a “terminable offense” for a police officer to lie in a report.
Both Triplett and Keyser, however, say they were given the choice of either resigning or being fired. Both left the department earlier this fall.
Despite her mention in Keyser and Triplett’s tort claims, Berg was still employed by the department after that claim was filed. On Nov. 17, Boise Police Capt. Matt Jones met with her, according to the claim. Berg told him about the hostile work environment she felt her training officer, Kolos, had created, and she told him about the conversation she had just seen four days before, between Kolos and Stace, her former sergeant, according to the claim. She also told him about the falsification of her training records, the claim reads.
In response, Berg claims, “Jones told her that she would be forced to do another four weeks of prescription, with the last two weeks being a repeat of End Evaluation.”
“Captain Jones relied upon Kolos’ false reporting of her performance,” according to the tort claim. “Berg told Captain Jones that she did not need any additional time if he would look into her (daily training records) and her videos."
In response, he told her it would be insubordination for her to not do what he ordered.
Berg told Jones the information Kolos, her training officer, had relied upon was “untruthful and in violation of policy,” according to the claim.
“Berg was then told she was either going to be terminated for insubordination or she could resign,” according to the claim. “Captains Brian Lee and Matt Jones terminated her on November 18, 2019.”
Filicetti pointed out Wednesday none of the officers with accusations made against them were put on paid leave.
“Typically, when an officer gets an allegation against him or her, they’re put on leave with pay,” he said. “In this situation, no one’s been put on leave with pay.”
Lying has serious consequences for a police officer, Filicetti said. It’s a Brady issue he said, referencing Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing defense attorneys to bring up in court instances in which an officer has lied in the past. The decision also states they must be given that information ahead of time.
In her tort claim, Berg has asked for $500,000 in damages, or a sum later to be determined, in addition to attorney’s fees.
Filicetti said he believes the department needs a sweeping change in leadership.
"There needs to be a house cleaning in the Boise Police Department administration," Filicetti said.