Crossing the Thin Blue Line : Television: CBS’ “With Hostile Intent’ depicts the story of two former Long Beach policewomen who won a $3.1-million judgment against the city for sexual harassment but lost their careers.


The worn adage “you can’t go home again” has a tragic meaning to Lindsay Allison. Allison, who won a sexual harassment suit against her native city of Long Beach, doesn’t feel she or her young son are safe there anymore. She fears retaliation from her former associates, who just happen to be police officers.

Her story and that of another former Long Beach police officer, Melissa Clerkin, are depicted in “With Hostile Intent,” a television movie that airs at 9 tonight on CBS (Channels 2 and 8). It chronicles the case in which the officers won a $3.1-million judgment against the city in 1991.

But, while Allison feels the movie only skims the surface of what really happened to her and Clerkin, Long Beach officials are bracing for a spate of bad publicity that they fear will be generated by a depiction that they believe may be, at best, out of date or, at worst, untrue. City officials say the filmmakers did not contact them in their research about the case, which is being appealed.


Allison and Clerkin, who did not work together, charged that they were humiliated by fellow police officers because they were women. They are portrayed in the movie by Mel Harris and Melissa Gilbert--but not with their real names.

Allison, who joined the department in 1981 and was the first woman on Long Beach’s K-9 squad, said she was forced to look at pornographic pictures, was subjected to sexist jokes and remarks and was placed in physical danger by fellow officers who allowed their dogs to attack her.

Clerkin, with the department since 1982, said that intimate details of her private life were circulated, that she was “maligned and vilified” and that she was refused crucial backup help.


Both women claimed a hostility so severe that they were forced into a stress-related leave in 1988. Allison initially hoped to return, but the 1989 lawsuit--filed, she said, only after all other avenues of recourse had been exhausted--made matters worse, and neither of them rejoined the police force.

“It started with exclusion,” Allison recalled. “Right from the beginning there was a negative tension that I wasn’t welcome. So much happened and it was so extreme. The movie is a very condensed version. It barely touches the surface of what really happened.”

Alison Cross, who wrote the screenplay for “With Hostile Intent,” said that she believes the real problem was that “the guys in the field could get away with these things because of the silence above at the top. The women complained constantly, and right away. But no one paid attention. . . . The silence acted as license.”


A scene in “With Hostile Intent” depicts the Long Beach police chief (but doesn’t name him) testifying at the women’s trial. Their attorney mentions a survey he requested that found 83% of the department’s female officers said they were sexually harassed. When asked if he sees a problem, he insists there wasn’t one.

City officials and police officers in Long Beach haven’t seen the movie yet but question how accurate it will be given that they were not involved. “Neither the producers, the writers, nor anyone affiliated with the movie have been in contact with representatives from the city of Long Beach,” public information office Joan Catarino told The Times.

Police Commander Anthony Batts and Officer Mike White, who is on the board of the Long Beach Police Department and sat in on some of the Internal Affairs hearings in the sexual harassment case, said that they knew of no one on the police force contacted regarding the movie.

“It’s a very complicated case, and you aren’t going to see everything (in the movie),” said Principal Deputy City Atty. Tom Reeves, the attorney who represented the city in the case. “If they wanted the facts they should have contacted me, but maybe they didn’t want the real facts.”


Marjorie David, who wrote an early version of the movie before being replaced by Cross, said that she and producer Andrew Lack (now the president of NBC News) tried to enlist the cooperation of the city and the police department psychologist who was involved but were told that no one could participate because the case was being appealed.

The filmmakers relied instead on official transcripts. “Even though the other side wouldn’t talk to me,” David said, “their depositions and court transcripts, which they gave under oath, clearly establish their point of view, which is what we used in the film.”


Officer White expressed concern at how Long Beach and its police department will come across to the nation. “For something like this (movie) to come about so far after the fact, it paints a false picture in everyone’s mind,” he said.

After the “case came down,” White said, “there was an uproar, and a whole lot of training and new policies (were) developed and all that kind of stuff. Everybody was put on real sharp notice and told that conduct would be very different and people would be aware of what they are saying and doing.”

For her part, writer Cross worries that the movie won’t do justice to the women’s experiences because of television’s limitations.

“The language was so horribly degrading, but you can’t use that on television,” she explained. “Describing a woman officer with a four-letter word was common, even among the ‘nice guys.’ There is no conventional word that translates, and what we can use on television makes the women sound petty in their reaction. There was the constant cold shouldering, the refusal to respond to backup (requests), really, really cheap words--all that is trivialized when you try to present it on television.”

Deputy City Atty. Reeves said that Long Beach is appealing the case on the basis of information not brought up in the initial trial and on what he called “prejudicial errors.”

Allison, who is struggling as a free-lance photographer and living in an undisclosed location, said she is extremely confident that the verdict will be upheld. She and Clerkin have not received any money pending the appeal’s outcome.


While she won’t return to law enforcement, “I miss the work,” Allison said sadly. “I desperately miss it. I wish all women would come out and say that they have been sexually harassed. The only way is to let the public know and let people become aware of it.”