Omaha Captain retaliated against for Promotion to Deputy Chief – Letter to Mayor Stothert and City Council

Mayor Stohert and Omaha City Council Members:                                                 July 3, 2018

The National Latino Peace Officers Association (NLPOA) Executive Board was informed that Captain Kathy Belcastro was ranked number one out of eight candidates for deputy chief during the last testing process in 2018.  We were thrilled to hear the news that such a dedicated public servant evaluated by both the chief of police and external raters, shined above her peers in this rigorous process.  Without a doubt, her education, extensive patrol, investigative and administrative skill sets helped her to achieve this ranking.  In addition to her dedication to the department she has been a long-term member of the local NLPOA Chapter and its offset, the (PACE) Police Athletics for Community Engagement Program.  As you know, both the NLPOA and PACE Program continue to build bridges with the minority community and disadvantaged children.   Due to Kathy’s commitment to these organizations, the City of Omaha has received national recognition for their “gold standard” in community policing.

I am reaching out to you because I am both confounded and concerned why Captain Belcastro was passed over twice for this position. She is held in high regard by her co-workers, subordinates and business owners because she has developed relationships within her precinct and agency.  She has also received favorable evaluations throughout her tenure as Captain.

Kathy came forward multiple times to ask internal leaders for a remedy to issues with sexual harassment and these issues were not followed through with.  As you know, statistics show that by the time a complainant comes forward to make a formal complaint there has been multiple incidents that she tried to handle on her own.  Captain Belcastro given no remedy lodged a complaint with the state equal rights commission.  Given all that has been stated above, we believe Kathy is being retaliated against for speaking out against sexual harassment within the workplace.  It is not only her duty to report sexual harassment; it is her obligation as a leader to make sure it is addressed, so it does not happen to another employee.

Captain Belcastro has led her precinct in ways that helped bring praise and national attention to Omaha and is the ideal candidate for deputy chief. We beseech you Mayor Stothert and the city council leadership to examine the issues and decisions made by the chief of police and human resources manager. They demonstrated they cannot fairly and equitably choose the right candidate for promotion.  Clearly, Captain Belcastro is an asset to your community and should not have been passed up for deputy chief immediately following her filing a formal complaint of sexual harassment.  This form of retaliation cannot be tolerated, please don’t hesitate to contact me to create some positive dialogue about this pressing issue.

Respectfully submitted,

Cindy M. Rodriguez

National Latino Peace Officers Association
National President

Below is a recent newspaper article that referenced Captain Kathy Belcastro:

Omaha police captain says gender discrimination complaint cost her a promotion

Katherine Belcastro-Gonzalez at a press conference in February 2016.

An Omaha police captain who applied to become deputy chief contends that she was passed over for the promotion in retaliation for a complaint she had filed with a state agency regarding gender discrimination.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, who decides on police promotions, denies the allegation.

Omaha Police Capt. Kathy Belcastro-Gonzalez, who heads the southeast precinct, was ranked No. 1 on a list of eight candidates to take one of the two open deputy police chief positions, according to two sources with knowledge of the ranking.

Schmaderer chose Capt. Ken Kanger and Capt. Michele Bang. They were Nos. 2 and 5 on the list, respectively, the sources said.

It was the first time Schmaderer had skipped over the No. 1 pick for a deputy chief job. According to Belcastro-Gonzalez’s attorney, Tom White, it’s also the first time in decades that a No. 1-ranked candidate for deputy chief had been passed over. Schmaderer hasn’t always chosen the top-ranked person for other positions, a police spokeswoman said.

Schmaderer had discretion to choose from among the eight names provided to him for the two positions, as the city allows four final candidates per each open position to be presented to the chief. But Belcastro-Gonzalez and White contend that Schmaderer’s decision was in retaliation for a complaint she filed with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission months earlier alleging gender discrimination.

Belcastro-Gonzalez and her attorney now plan to meet with the commission again to file a second complaint, this time regarding what they say is retaliation.

“I believe this is a clear instance of retaliation because Kathy raised Cain about how they weren’t committed to diversity,” White said. “She’s paying a price for it.”

Schmaderer said in a statement that he chose the best people for the positions.

“I am not the least bit concerned about the retaliation allegation, as there is absolutely no merit to it,” he said. “I make my decisions for the best interest of Omaha and the Omaha Police Department.”

Anthony Conner, president of the Omaha Police Officers Association, said the union is not involved because the deputy chief position is outside the protections of the bargaining group.

Kanger and Bang were promoted at a ceremony last week, joining three other deputy chiefs, all of whom Schmaderer has chosen. Kanger has been with the department for nearly 21 years, Bang for roughly 25 years. Belcastro-Gonzalez has been with the department for 24 years.

In March, Belcastro-Gonzalez filed a complaint with the NEOC after she raised concerns about the fitness of a previous deputy chief candidate and whether proper procedures on investigating complaints and diversity measures were followed.

The commission still is investigating that complaint. The city said in a statement that the complaint is without merit.

The testing process for the two deputy chief positions opened just after Belcastro-Gonzalez filed the March complaint. The test, created by an outside, independent company, is made up of a training and experience test and structured exercises.

A ranking was determined, and Schmaderer conducted interviews with the top eight candidates.

The city moved to an outside testing agency in 2011 to “minimize concerns about whether there were any unfair impacts or favoritism with the test,” said Deputy City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch.

“That’s great,” White said, responding to in den Bosch’s comment. “Then how come they didn’t trust the results?

“The more fair (the test) is, the stronger it is, the more suspect it is that they ignored the results and chose someone else over (Belcastro-Gonzalez).”

Schmaderer can weigh the employee’s working relationships and accomplishments, in den Bosch said.

“We are comfortable that the decision on who to promote was based on the merit of the candidates and not for any inappropriate purpose,” the city’s statement said.

Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez, who manages the executive services bureau, is married to Belcastro-Gonzalez. White said that should not have prohibited the chief from appointing Belcastro-Gonzalez. White noted that there are several Omaha police officers who are married to or otherwise related to other officers, and Omaha has no policy that forbids a married couple from both holding the high position.

“She’s an extraordinarily talented police officer, has a spotless record,” White said. “Just treat them on their merit.”

Cindy M. Rodriguez, the president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association of which Belcastro-Gonzalez is a member, wrote a letter addressed to Mayor Jean Stothert and the City Council on Tuesday. Rodriguez lauded Belcastro-Gonzalez’s accomplishments and said she is held in high regard by co-workers, subordinates and business owners.

She asked city leadership to examine the decision-making process.

“Clearly, Captain (Belcastro-Gonzalez) is an asset to your community and should not have been passed up for deputy chief immediately following her filing a formal complaint of sexual harassment,” Rodriguez wrote.