Bullied by the ‘blue wall’ for whistleblowing? Ex-JCPD cop ‘Real Steel Ramos’ claims in lawsuit
Ex-JCPD Officer Juan L. Ramos filed a lawsuit in Hudson County Superior Court alleging the City of Jersey City violated his civil rights and discriminated against him because he was perceived to be whistleblowing on corruption.
Ex-Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) officer Juan L. Ramos – also known as “Lou Real Steel Ramos” on social media – insists that he’s the victim of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for being perceived as a whistleblower, undergoing weight loss surgery, and posting “inspirational” content on Instagram leading to the termination of his employment.
According to the complaint filed in Hudson County Superior Court, Ramos, an officer with the JCPD from January 7, 2005 to July 25, 2016, claims he lost his job due to fitness evaluations that were corrupted by the City of Jersey City’s business relationships with mental health vendors.
Ramos says his troubles originally date back to the summer of 2007, when he complained to then-Lt. Peter Sinacore, retired as of 2009, concerning the legality of a police detail at a construction site. Sinacore allegedly labeled Ramos a “rat” during a subsequent meeting for supposedly recording private conversations – leading to years of harassment from “every supervisor” and distrust among his fellow officers, according to the complaint.
On top of facing harassment from the “blue wall of silence” for allegedly questioning corrupt practices, Ramos claims he was discriminated against and humiliated for being obese – leading him to seek surgical remedy that resulted in substantial weight loss. In spite of the surgery, the ex-JCPD officer attests that he continued to work in a hostile environment for perceived whistleblowing activities and disability.
Furthermore, around May 2, 2014, JCPD Internal Affairs (IA) allegedly targeted Ramos because it was believed he was recording officers involved in official misconduct and corruption. According to the complaint, the intent of the IA investigation was to discourage Ramos from reporting any wrongdoing.
Additionally, Ramos’ lawsuit asserts that the IA investigation took place as federal law enforcement was probing JCPD corruption. It’s specifically alleged that the IA investigation sought to obtain damaging evidence against other police officers in order to protect them from criminal liability.
The lawsuit also states that, rather than stopping the harassment he faced at work, Ramos’ commander – North District Captain Edgar Martinez – told him that he “needed to have thick skin.” Alleged examples of harassment included unflattering pictures of Ramos being circulated, Capt. Edward Kist having a picture of a sumo wrestler marked with Ramos’ name visible in his locker, and other officers ridiculing the “Real Steel Ramos” by calling him a “f***ing cheater.”
According to Ramos, in March 2015 he began to respond to derogatory comments on social media by posting “inspirational” pictures in a private capacity (mostly in meme form based on internet searches). Though he claims it was protected activity, IA apparently used Instagram posts to launch what Ramos says was a retaliatory investigation against him.
Sometime in April 2015, Ramos claims IA summoned him and accused him of violating the JCPD’s social media policy. Furthermore, it’s stated that then-Lt. Mark Miller of IA ordered the ex-officer to obtain a “fitness for duty evaluation” at the Institute for Forensic Psychology (IFP).
Ramos contends that the City of Jersey City schemed to fabricate a pretext to fire him – including a fitness evaluation at IFP, which the lawsuit claims is “widely known” to diagnose officers as “unfit for duty.” Furthermore, the complaint states IFP has a business relationship with the City of Jersey City and other municipalities to provide favorable reports based on information it receives and ex-parte communications with referring agencies.
IFP doctors allegedly diagnosed Ramos with “Histrionic Personality Disorder with Narcissistic personality features” and found him unfit for duty, according to the complaint. Following IFP evaluations, Ramos proclaims he was evaluated by an independent doctor who found him fit for duty.
Despite the independent evaluation, the suit claims the unfit for duty reports from IFP ultimately led Public Safety Director James Shea to suspend Ramos without pay. Following Shea’s actions, Ramos says he requested to Lt. Miller that New Pathway Counseling Service (NPCS) evaluate him. Miller allegedly objected because Ramos had “little chance of recovery,” but informed the ex-JCPD officer that he was free to pay out of his own pocket for an evaluation.
Unlike IPF, the lawsuit professes that it’s “widely known” NPCS approves JCPD employees as “fit for duty.” Which leads to Ramos’ most shocking allegation – that after apparently paying out-of-pocket for an evaluation, NPCS found him fit for duty, then demanded the ex-officer return their evaluation because NPCS was a vendor for the city.
Of note – JCPD officers Anthony and Maria Ruocco are mentioned as examples of city employees sent to NPCS and evaluated as fit for duty, according to Ramos’ lawsuit. Various sources confirmed to Real Jersey City that the married couple had unfortunate issues play out on social media, and, as a precaution, both were stripped of their firearms and placed on modified duty at one point by the city.
As for Ramos, he claims he advised the city that its own vendor, NPCS, found him fit for duty, and a subsequent evaluation was ordered. Ramos claims that, despite an agreement for a neutral medical examiner between the city and himself, the accord was broken and the evaluation was allegedly administered by the city’s “own doctor” at Comprehensive Psychological Services (CPS).
Ramos accuses the doctor who administered the evaluation of submitting a “false and unfounded” report, and that it was considered “flawed and unsubstantiated” by two independent doctors who found him fit for duty. Despite what he claimed were requests for reasonable accommodations due to the flawed evaluations, Ramos says the city refused to engage in an interactive process before ultimately terminating his employment.
After losing his job, Ramos states the city retaliated against him once more by falsely claiming he was terminated for misconduct when the ex-officer sought unemployment benefits. Despite the Department of Labor denying his October 2016 request for unemployment assistance, Ramos ultimately obtained the benefit on appeal.
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Louis A. Zayas, who has represented other JCPD officers in civil cases, and seeks compensatory damages, reinstatement and punitive damages for numerous civil rights and discrimination violations. The City of Jersey City is the sole defendant.
Director Shea responded to an email seeking comment on Ramos’ lawsuit by stating the Fulop Administration never comments on litigation.