Born and raised in Crystal Falls, Michigan in 1969, I was the only girl in a family of three boys, and maybe not the typical little girl in that I rode dirt bikes, loved fishing and getting dirty. When I was six years-old, my uncle was shot and killed in the line of duty in Glendale, Wisconsin. He was only 30 years-old. This had an influence on me to go into law enforcement. I learned at a young age to take care of myself and didn’t depend on others to do so. I received an Associated Degree in 1989. I graduated from the police academy in Kalamazoo, MI in November of 1994 and began working as a patrol officer for the City of Iron River in April of 1995.
In December of 2013, I was selected to be the Chief of Police by an interview panel consisting of police chiefs from the biggest municipalities in the UP. I knew I would have a difficult road ahead as the mentality of certain men in certain capacities could be detrimental to my career – but I felt confident that I had the strength to persevere. I implemented many changes to the department, provided training that was never given before, wrote policies that had never been in place and began working with the drug addicts by creating constructive programs to help them recover. I implemented drug programs, cyber crimes and bullying programs in the local schools, something that had never been done before. I was investigating two homicides and putting in a lot of hours as I was dedicated to my job. I was thriving. In October of 2015, I received a call from the police chief in Escanaba Michigan. He told me that I needed to watch my back as a man named David Thayer was in the running for our City Manager position. He told me that Thayer is a convicted felon and hates women in authority positions. He told me he had been fired from every job he has ever had. Even after the Mayor was warned of this man’s past, he made the decision to he made the decision to hire him. He immediately started working on me by having a temp go through my credit card receipts and personnel file to try and build a history against me. He would go around me instead of working with me and refused to treat me as a professional. He was incredibly demeaning and other city employees took note of it. It wasn’t just me. The city treasurer resigned in January of 2015 because of Thayer and two weeks later the city clerk turned in a letter of resignation. Thayer realized he needed her to stay or he wouldn’t know how to do anything. He sent her flowers, gave her a $6,000 raise and doubled her personal time off. The clerk had complained to me and others about Thayer being sexist and demeaning towards her. She told others that she noticed he treated me the worst and felt he was going to go after me. I have witnesses who testified to these facts. However, after the raise and benefits, she changed her demeanor.
Within six weeks, Thayer took away my PD credit cards for no reason and without telling me, stopped my ability to communicate with the mayor and council (which was in my contract to do), he ordered new street signage in the community without even discussing with me, went around me to my officers regarding matters that I needed to be included in, would get up into my face to intimidate me, called me a bitch on the phone and then hung up on me (witnessed), told me that women don’t belong in men’s occupations (professional witness), refused to renew my contract, accused me (to others) of wearing ‘pink slippers’ to work (witnessed) and then, on my final day of work, told me that the entire council wanted to fire me then proceeded to attempt to push me down in my chair while screaming ‘sit in that fucking chair’, then getting in my face like he was going to hit me (professional witness). I left his office and left work for the day after sending an email to Thayer, the mayor and others, stating that effective immediately I would be off with medical issues. He then demanded I have a psychological fitness for duty exam before returning to work (as he had done to a prior female officer) I did not know what I should do.
I retained an attorney and told him what had taken place. I was never permitted to return to work. I knew it had now become a fight and he would try to come up with reasons for firing me. I had a murder trial pressing and was in fear of what this situation would do to me, my reputation and the case. I have letters from Christie Salo and Patricia Dawson, both endured sexist, demeaning and abusive behavior from Thayer. Dawson was put through an identical set of circumstances as me with Thayer. Also a letter from the City Manager of Grayling where Thayer worked until 2010. This manager also told me how Thayer would urinate on the toilet seats to show his dislike for the women he worked with). Another woman who reached out to me is Diana Doyle. Diana is the mother of Thayer’s (now) 16 year-old daughter. Diana told me about being in a very abusive relationship with Thayer in which he beat her severely and also abused thier daughter. She said that he told her on many occasions how much he despised women in authority positions, telling her that women don’t belong in men’s occupations. This is exactly what Thayer said to me in his office in July of 2016. All of these women wanted to testify on my behalf and were denied by the presiding judge.
When The fitness for duty exam was completed and the Dr found me to be ‘fit for duty’ to return to work as the chief of police, Thayer was upset and didn’t agree with the doctor’s findings. His entire goal was to use that report to focus on the possible negative attributes that he could pick out and use to his advantage. He then fired me two weeks later because he and I had a ‘difference in management style and
professionalism which caused us to have irreconcilable difference’. I never received an explanation to that determination. I filed for unemployment and Thayer fought that, citing that I was fired for disciplinary reasons. This was the first time I had heard of any such claim. During the unemployment hearing, Thayer now cited an incident that occurred in my office as the reason for the termination. He also said that it was my use of the ‘F’ word with other employees as well as his interpretation of my fitness for duty exam. The unemployment attorney argued with Thayer asking him why, after six months following my termination, he had now decided to ‘change’ the reasoning for my termination. The judge was not impressed with his deception and found in my favor. I have audio of that entire hearing. This was an obvious display from a man who clearly didn’t not have basis to fire me. This was a man who knew he was in trouble for what he did to me and was desperate to figure out how to lie his way out of it and try to make me look like a bad person. He worked on that for over a year until my trial date. Please see attached the termination letter Thayer presented to me. Please note that this letter talks about a meeting with him in December of 2015 where Thayer had declined to renew my contract or renew the agreement I had with the union for the past two years. I had debated going back to my union job but because that would mean laying off another officer, I felt I could make it through. Thayer’s description of that letter as seen in my termination letter is a lie. I told him I decided to remain the chief without the agreement. He would later use that deceptively as if he had given me an ultimatum. I have proof of those lies in documented emails.
I found a labor attorney in Dearborn, MI who took my case and I filed a lawsuit in March of 2017, immediately following my murder trial. What I have gone through caused me to lose my career, my identity, my ability to pay my rent – which caused me to move away from my son and leave him with his father while I tried to find work. I can’t even describe the trauma I have endured through this. I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD and at times was sure I didn’t want to live any longer. When I finally got my day in court recently, the entire defense was now that I was insubordinate and that I had used the “F” word when dealing with the public. The trial was held in the same county I was fired from and when the economists talked about the money owed to me in lost wages and pension, several of the male jurors had immediately decided that I didn’t deserve money and refused to look at the evidence in the case. I would later learn that they thought me winning meant I would bankrupt the city. I spoke for hours with a female juror who told me that one male juror who ran the jury deliberations, refused to look at evidence and commented immediately ‘she doesn’t deserve anything, she left her family for the murder case’.
When Thayer changed his reasoning for my termination (six months after he fired me and after the lawsuit was filed), he said that an incident that occurred on September 19, 2016 in my office was the main factor. This had never been listed as any part of termination until now and was something that he brought up to me on my last day of work prior to his attempt to assault me. On September 19, 2016, I had a couple in my office who were giving me a hard time about a death certificate. They were very angry and accusatory with me. I told the man to lower his voice. I continued to try and talk to the woman who was chewing me out and the man then screamed at me ‘You fucking listen to me!’. I told the man to leave three times and he would not budge. I finally opened the door and directed him out so I could continue to try and help the woman. Both were irrational. I had two witnesses in my office. One of the witnesses apologized to me for the abuse I had endured and commended me for my professionalism. The other witness was working on my computer and I apologized to him for the disruption. He told me that it wasn’t my fault. He said that his wife is a superintendent the high school and has to go through exactly what I do. He further said that the man deserved to be removed from the office for his actions. The clerk encouraged the man to come up and file a complaint, which played right for Thayer. When I spoke to him about this the following day, I told him what had happened, asked him to talk to witnesses and to view the video. He did NONE of it. This was never a discipline issue. The entire defense was built on making sure to make me look like a bad person. I was attacked for reporting abuse. The defense’s opening statements were hateful and were an attack on me. “Laura Frizzo is not a hero!!! Where is her engagement ring? Her attorney must have told her to take it off today” and on and on it went. She continuously made false statements of fact to the jury that were lies and I don’t know how she was permitted to do so. Continuously saying I was insubordinate for going around the manager and identifying a monthly report done by me to council the first month Thayer began. This is how I was instructed to do my report by the prior manager and it is in my job description! I do not know what I did to deserve this when all I have done is tell the truth about what this man did to me. There were no proofs submitted showing that I ever mistreated anyone – other than hear-say. No one came forward to prove these things true. However, Thayer, the clerk and the Mayor all were caught lying on the stand. It didn’t matter to the juror who had a pre-formed opinion and seemed to have a personal relationship with Thayer. Thayer, the Mayor and the City Clerk all lied under oath during trial – which was exposed.
The jury was deadlocked for five hours. The Judge urged them to go back into the jury room and try to make a decision. The female juror tried to show evidence and facts and the male juror said he didn’t care and wasn’t changing his mind. After almost ten hours of deliberation, at 4:00pm on Friday night, the Friday before Christmas, a juror in support of me changed his stance because he wanted to go home and he knew this man wasn’t going to change. The other jurors felt bullied. I have a written statement from a female juror who could not believe what was taking place in that room.
My attorneys disagreed with the judge’s decision to not allow testimony regarding Thayer’s past history of discrimination, especially when it mirrored my treatment. It didn’t make sense when this was the basis of my lawsuit and was a direct evidentiary issue. They objected to this ruling. Even more bizarre, she allowed in my past history involving my ‘personal life’ from 2005 which did include discipline for that personal life matter. However, there was never any work-related discipline in my career. She also allowed testimony from the city manager before Thayer, who is deceased. She allowed the city clerk to testify on behalf of the deceased ex-manager saying that he told her that I had lied to him. How is this even possible? How was any testimony allowed that didn’t directly relate for the reason stated by Thayer in my termination letter as the reason for the termination? How is it fair or just that this trial had to take place in this very small community where bias and pre-determined opinions were prevalent and would prevent me from having a fair jury? It was obvious that the more the community loved me, the more Thayer despised me. He saw me as competition. A disgusting female who thought she was better than him. And he was going to show me. Thayer was now 63 years-old. He had never held a job in his entire career for more than three years and he was either terminated or forced to resign from every job on his resume
Throughout my entire career, I was faced with sexual discrimination. I learned quickly to brush it off. My first year on the job as a patrol officer, I was approached and asked to join the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team. It was an honor as they’d never had a female. This invitation had to be permitted by the sheriff of the county as all the departments funded the position. The sheriff told my boss that I needed to be home taking care of my children. I asked the sheriff why he thought he had the right to determine my career. I knew then that I was going to have a hard road ahead of me. Throughout the years, I would continue to encounter similar situations and statements and learned that I needed to let these things ‘roll off my back’ because, frankly, nobody cares and it’ll only cause more problems for me. In 1997, I received a Commendation of Service for catching a suspect on foot. I became a forensic interviewer of children and helped hundreds of child victims of sexual abuse throughout the entirety of my career. In 2001 I married again and had a son. In 2005 we faced marital trouble and it was a rough year for me. In 2013 my chief of 15 years retired. For the first time in the history of IRPD, an interview panel was called to conduct interviews for the chief’s position because…now we have a woman in the running. I was selected from a board of male chiefs from bigger areas. There were over twenty other applicants. I had to deal with a City Manager, Mayor and City Council who had never had a woman in this position. I was tasked with a City Manger who was an alcoholic and was eventually let go by the community which he failed. This man tried to blame me for his shortcomings which is another story in itself. In October of 2015, I received a call from another chief. He was calling to warn me about one of the applicants in the running for the City Manager position and tell me that this man, David Thayer, has a history of mistreating women as well as dislike of police officers.
Throughout this process, I have been contacted by women from across the country who have shared their stories with me. Women just like me who keep brushing off this treatment because we know that it will only worsen our situation or get us fired from a career we love, just as I did. Not to mention the public shaming because you took a stand.
Help me take the stand and then help other do the same. Support this cause.