BENICIA -- A former California Highway Patrol officer who says he dealt with harassment and discrimination for being gay is filing a civil suit against the agency.
These days Jay Brome is often seen inside his antique clothing shop in downtown Benicia, which he just opened last year.
"It was a great decision because it helped me get better," Brome told FOX40.
The store has become a comfort and a coping mechanism from a past life Brome said he has been trying to forget.
"The worst of it was when we were training in the gym and the other cadet held a gun to my head and said, 'I know you’re gay. Tell me you’re gay and I’ll pull the trigger," Brome said.
Brome is gay and says when he entered the CHP academy in 1996 he suffered abuse and discrimination because of it.
"(A superior officer) told me to take my skirt off and start acting like a man," Brome said.
He says he wanted so badly to serve in law enforcement that for years he largely ignored the harassment.
Eventually, he requested transfers from San Francisco to Contra Costa and Solano counties. But through the span of his 20-year career, he claims it continued.
"Name-calling. They wrapped hangers around my locker in the big shape of a penis," he said. "They carved the side of my personal car in the locked parking lot. They put pink roses in my mail slot. They carved my name off an award plaque."
Eventually, Brome says he did start filing complaints with the CHP and the state. He wrote letters and memos, as well as approached his superiors.
"But they conduct their own investigation, so it’s really a mute ... it's a worthless process," Brome told FOX40.
Brome claims often when he’d call for backup at a scene no officers would come.
In 2015, while at the Solano CHP, he says the abuse came to a boiling point. It's when he says he began considering suicide.
"I knew where I was gonna do it. Everything was planned out," Brome said.
Shortly after, Brome says his doctor recommended he take medical leave. He never returned to the CHP, officially retiring in February of 2016.
Seven months later, he filed a civil lawsuit against the CHP and eight individual officers for harassment and discrimination.
"I think it needs to change behavior in law enforcement," Brome said. "They can’t have the mentality that our only priority is to protect the image of the department."
Last March, a Solano County judge threw out Brome's lawsuit because the statute of limitations for the abuse he described had run out. His attorneys are now appealing that ruling.
Brome, the officer turned shop owner, now awaits the CHP's response, trying, he says, to bury his past a little more each day.
FOX40 reached out to the CHP, including the statewide office based in Sacramento and the Golden Gate division, which represents all three departments where Brome worked. FOX40 was looking for a response to his claims or any evidence refuting them.
The response was the same, that the CHP cannot comment because the case is considered pending litigation.