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Lakeland leaders, state attorney react to sex scandal allegations | News

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Lakeland leaders, state attorney react to sex scandal allegations

LAKELAND, Florida -- A revealing report from the State Attorney's Office alleges that as many as ten officers within the Lakeland Police Department had sex on the job, in patrol cars, at the police department, and even once in a car outside an officer's funeral for at least seven years.

It also highlights multiple incidents in which the report's victim and witness, a female criminal analyst, says she was raped and felt that sexually suggestive behavior from supervisors was unwarranted and not consensual. Other times, she says, she agreed to sexual requests because she feared retaliation from supervisors or losing her job for saying no.

The woman disclosed the information after an investigation began into a potentially inappropriate relationship between her and an officer who has since resigned. The woman came forward because she "feels like she's been victimized, sexually harassed ... taken advantage of," according to what she told investigators with the State Attorney's Office.

The majority of those who were interviewed in the report agreed with or admitted to the woman's allegations. Many of the instances highlighted would potentially bring felony and misdemeanor charges, but according to state attorney Jerry Hill, criminal charges aren't being pursued at this point because of a lack of dates and other evidence. For example, salacious photos sent to and from the woman were on old cell phones for which SIM cards couldn't be retrieved.

"The conduct alleged is an embarrassment," Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack said on Wednesday. "The conduct alleged is not now, and has never been, tolerated by me or my administration and I can assure you it will be dealt with appropriately."

So far, a police captain and two sergeants have been placed on paid administrative leave, along with a fire inspector. Two more police employees are on modified duty, which means they've been temporarily reassigned to a position without police authority. Womack says the investigation could take months to complete and may likely go beyond the scope of the State Attorney's report, potentially finding that more people were involved.

The report and city leaders both called out friends and coworkers who knew details about the incidents, but never disclosed them to anyone within the city prior to the investigation. If the city had known sooner, city manager Doug Thomas told reporters on Wednesday an investigation would have started and appropriate action would have been taken immediately.

As the police investigation continues, Hill says he's concerned about his findings, and in the wake of his report sent to LPD last week about a controversial bra search by a Lakeland officer during a traffic stop, he urges the police department to deal with the incidents immediately.

"You had a police officer that did a bad search. You have a police officer that maybe submitted bad paperwork and testified inappropriately. Well, you've got a sex scandal. You've got to quit compartmentalizing at some point and say this is the big picture of what we're dealing with in Lakeland," Hill told reporters.

When asked if these incidents should spark change among LPD's leadership, Hill compared the situation to finding a good school for his child.

"If I want them to get out of a 'D' school and go to an 'A' school, I think I've got to lose the principal. That's what this is all about," he said.


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